SACRAMENTO (AP) – Three Republican state senators are calling for increased criminal penalties for lawmakers convicted of taking bribes under state law, a move that comes as two Democratic colleagues face federal corruption charges.
Senators Mike Morrell, Steve Knight and Ted Gaines said in a release Friday that the ethics reforms proposed by California Democrats are too weak. Their proposal would double the prison sentence for bribery to four to eight years under state law.
Senators Leland Yee and Ron Calderon are both facing more than 100 years in federal prison if they are convicted. Neither lawmaker is currently facing state charges.
Reached by telephone Saturday, Morrell, an Assemblyman elected to the Senate in March, conceded that state penalties pale in comparison to existing federal penalties. But Californians are looking for state lawmakers to do what they can to show they have zero tolerance for corruption in their ranks, he said.
“Jail time and restitution that hits them in the pocketbook sends a strong message that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard,” Morrell said.
Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, is also carrying bills related to bribery statutes. SB950 would begin statutes of limitations when the offense is discovered, and SB952 expands penalties for aiding bribery.
AB1692 and 1666 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia would prohibit lawmakers from using campaign money to pay for ethics violations. SCA17 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg would ask voters to amend the constitution to allow for suspension without pay.
Steinberg also proposed on Friday Senate rules that would prohibit fundraising in the last month of legislative session, grant legislative staff whistleblower protections for reporting wrongdoing and create an independent ethics ombudsman. These proposals, if approved by a Senate vote, would only apply to that chamber.
SB1101 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would ban fundraising during the last 100 days of the legislative session at both houses of the Legislature. It heads for a committee vote Monday.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.