- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Democratic lawmakers proposed legislation Tuesday that would require lobbyists to report their activity at the California Coastal Commission, following the public outcry when commission officials voted last week to fire the executive director without explanation.

Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego, Assemblyman Mark Stone of Scotts Valley and Assemblyman Marc Levine of San Rafael said their proposal, AB2002, fills a void in commissioner accountability.

The proposal came a week after members of the Coastal Commission voted behind closed doors to fire their executive director of five years, Charles Lester. Lester’s supporters claim developers and lobbyists influenced his ousting.

Stone said it became clear after last week’s hearing that “there are some very, very cozy relationships between certain lobbyists and certain commissioners that are not being disclosed. This bill would help force some of the disclosure.”

Stone and Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, were members of the commission and helped hire Lester as executive director in 2011. Bloom is also supporting the proposal.

Commission spokeswoman Noaki Schwartz said the proposal has not yet been reviewed by the commission and offered no comment. She said the bill will be included in a legislative report presented at a March commission meeting in Santa Monica.

Some commissioners indicated at a daylong hearing last week that Lester’s dismissal stemmed from questionable job performance, including times when Lester left them in the dark on important matters.

Others support the new legislation and welcome even more, including registration of lobbyists and public disclosure of their client lists.

“The legislation being introduced this week is a good first step, but doesn’t go far enough,” Commissioner Wendy Mitchell said.

The bill would amend the Political Reform Act of 1974 to require anyone lobbying the Coastal Commission to report who they work for, their pay and the issues on which they are trying to sway the commission.

The Coastal Commission was established two years before the act, but is not explicitly included in that law’s lobbying transparency procedures.

One of Atkins’ two appointees voted to remove Lester. After the 7-5 vote, Atkins tweeted, “Let me apologize to the public. I truly thought my appointees would be better stewards of the coast.”

Atkins said the proposed change would end special treatment that lobbyists and commissioners have been able to exploit. It would require people who lobby the Coastal Commission to disclose just as they would if they were lobbying lawmakers.

The measure borrows language from a similar proposal that failed in 2005 by one vote in the state Senate. The proposal would require support from two-thirds of lawmakers to pass out of the Legislature because it seeks to amend the Political Reform Act.

At least 20 lawmakers, all Democrats, are supporting the proposal.

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