There's nothing like a couple of legislative ethics scandals to focus the minds of state lawmakers on reforms.
While we say bring 'em on, we remain skeptical about the effectiveness of the end product.
Clearly feeling the sting after the conviction of state Sen. Roderick Wright and the federal indictment of Sen. Ron Calderon, fellow Democrats have proposed changes to political laws.
Wright, D-Inglewood, convicted of perjury and voter fraud, and Calderon, D-Montebello, indicted on charges of accepting nearly $100,000 in bribes, are both on paid leave from the Senate.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, created a special committee headed by Sen. Richardo Lara, D-Long Beach. The Fair Political Practices Commission, the state's main political ethics watchdog, helped the committee write proposed reforms.
We're not ready to recommend individual bills yet, but we're pleased that such bills exist. It shows lawmakers may actually be paying attention. Besides, solid remedies are most likely advanced when the pain of scandal is fresh.
The proposals would ban legislators and other state officials from accepting so-called entertainment gifts -- such as golf games, tickets to sports events, concerts and theme parks, and hunting and fishing trips.
The package of bills would ban lobbyists from hosting political fundraisers at their homes. That is in response to another scandal in which the FPPC sent letters to 37 public officials -- including Gov. Jerry Brown, Steinberg and Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, a co-author of the reform proposals -- notifying them their campaigns had received improper contributions from lobbyist Kevin Sloat at fundraisers held at his home.
Sloat agreed to pay the FPPC a record $133,500 fine for exceeding the $500 total-expenditure limit at his fundraisers by providing fine wine, liquor and cigars, and for giving sports tickets to legislators.
Any decent reform proposals are welcome, but the ones we have seen do not go far enough.
One thing missing so far is reform of legislators' travel paid for by special interests. Lara, for example, spent 26 days abroad last year on "educational" trips paid for by groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy. He and other lawmakers spent 10 days in Sweden and Norway to see how those countries handle energy policy.
Lara said the trips serve an important purpose, but that most taxpayers don't want to pay for them. While he is right about the second part, he says he is working with the FPPC on placing a "cap" on such trips.
Zero is a good number. Apparently, he doesn't grasp the inherent conflict of interest in accepting such trips. Mind you, this is one of the "reformers," which should help explain our skepticism.