Jackson To Introduce Legislation to Ban 'Ex Parte' Communications with Coastal Commissioners

March 22, 2016

SACRAMENTO – In response to the controversial firing of the Coastal Commission’s executive director last month, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) is introducing legislation to prohibit private, off-the-record communications with Coastal Commissioners that could influence decision-making.

Next week, Jackson will amend her Senate Bill 1190 to prohibit ‘ex parte’ communications with Coastal Commissioners, effectively banning any private oral, electronic or written communications that do not occur in a public meeting between the Commissioners and someone with an interest in a decision going before the 12-member body.

Established by initiative in 1972, the Coastal Commission plans and regulates the use of land and water on the California coast. Current law allows ex parte communications with Coastal Commissioners, but requires that such communications be cursorily disclosed on a form or, if they occurred seven days prior to a meeting, verbally in a public meeting.

“In the wake of the firing of Dr. Lester, it is important that we do all we can to restore the public’s trust in the Coastal Commission,” said Jackson. “This bill will level the playing field between big-moneyed interests and those without such financial resources, remove the possibility of backroom decision-making or the perception that this is occurring, and help ensure that decisions are made more openly and transparently.”

Once amended, SB 1190 will require a majority vote for passage out of both houses. A second section of the bill seeks to protect the integrity and independence of Coastal Commission staff and reports by prohibiting Commissioners from being able to influence the reports or recommendations of staff prior to being introduced.

“The Coastal Commission was created by the will of the voters more than 40 years ago, and they are charged with the important public role of protecting our coast and ensuring public access to our coastline,” said Jackson. “Today, our oceans face the very significant threats of climate change, pollution, unchecked development and oil spills. It’s more important than ever that we seek to preserve an independent, functioning Commission and staff.”

Jackson is the principal co-author of two additional bills to bring reform to the Coastal Commission. AB 2002 (Stone, Atkins, Levine) would requiring those lobbying before the Coastal Commission to register as lobbyists and be subject to the same reporting requirements as those lobbying before the Legislature. AB 2628 (Levine) places a one-year ban on former Commissioners being able to lobby the Commission or work for the Commission. Both bills will require a two-thirds vote for passage.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.