Trying to counter ethics scandals in which lawmakers stand accused of voter fraud, bribery, money laundering and other misdeeds, Democratic leaders Thursday proposed sweeping changes to state political laws aimed at restoring public confidence in the Legislature.
The proposals, which Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to embrace, would ban lawmakers and other state officials from accepting such gifts as spa treatments, golf games and tickets to Lakers games.
Officials could take other gifts, but only if their worth totaled $200 or less annually from any source — down from the $440 now allowed. And politicians would have to report campaign contributions more frequently.
The scandals of recent months have spawned more than a dozen measures by various lawmakers, addressing fundraising rules, lobbyists and travel by state officials. Thursday's more visible effort followed the back-to-back departures of two Democratic state senators, both now on paid leave, that this week cost the party its supermajority in the upper house.
The timing of the new package is no coincidence, said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who studies governmental ethics. "Oftentimes the only silver lining that comes as a result of scandals is reform."
The question, she said, is "whether this is real reform or politically expedient reform, or both."