The California Assembly unanimously passed a bill on Monday
that would set new standards for transparency in public works projects. Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) sponsored a
bill that would require large scale projects to be more transparent about the way they audit projects.
SB 425, if approved by Governor Brown, would require auditing commissions that review large-scale public works projects to disclose information about their interests and create charters that identify their goals. These auditing commissions are referred to as “peer review” groups in the bill.
The bill began about four years ago, when public transportation advocates debated the validity of the High Speed Rail Authority’s ridership forecasts. The ridership projections were used to pitch the project to the federal government and gain public dollars in 2009. In 2010, California received $2.25 billion from the federal government for high-speed rail project. The cost of the project has since ballooned.
This new bill would require the High Speed Rail Authority,
and other public works project managers, to shine a light on the groups that scrutinize their work on behalf of the public. While some
people are concerned that this will merely create more legal challenges for developers,
DeSaulnier says that’s not the case.
“Don’t see how it will,” he tweeted at Concord Patch on Tuesday. “SB245 only affects state agencies & public works projects. Agencies must develop transparent process for selecting peer review group & post it online. No real cost.”
Members of the new peer review groups would have do things such as file statements with the Fair Political Practices Commission that detail their economic interests. The goal is to prevent people with discernible conflicts of interests such as a potential financial gain from the success of a project to serve on a project’s peer review group. It also stipulates that their work must be done in public.
DeSaulnier is the chair of the Transportation and Housing Committee in the Senate.