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Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

‘Pay to Play’ Governor Behest Payment Contracting Bill Killed by Senate Democrats

‘We all want to see government function the way it should without political influence and donations and corruption’

By Evan Symon, April 29, 2022 4:45 pm

A bill that would have prohibited state agencies from awarding contracts to companies that made behest payments on the Governor’s behalf failed to pass the Senate Governmental Organization Committee on Friday following the majority of Senators not voting on it.

Senate Bill 1367, authored by Senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) would have specifically prohibited state agencies from awarding a contract for which the state agency had not secured at least 3 competitive bids or proposals to a company that made a payment at the behest of the Governor in the preceding 12 months.

As behest payments are requests by lawmakers for donations to a charitable organization made by donors, currently with no monetary limits, donations of $5,000 or more required are to be reported to the Fair Political Practices Commission, SB 1367 significantly addressed “Pay-to-Play” contracting decisions. Specifically, SB 1367 would have stopped the Governor from awarding no-bid contracts to companies that recently made behest payments on their behalf.

Senator Wilk wrote the bill to combat the huge surge of behest payments made on the Governor’s behalf between 2019 and 2020, which had shot up from $12.1 million to $227 million, largely due to an upswing of COVID-19 pandemic related goods and programs. As major donors of Governor Gavin Newsom continued to receive no-bid contracts in 2021, Wilk decided to push forward his bill this session.

SB 1367 fails to pass Senate Committee for second time this week

SB 1367 initially failed to pass earlier this week on the 26th in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee when 11 of the 15 Senators on the Committee refused to vote for it. It was immediately voted on to be be reconsidered on Friday. However, the number of non-votes, primarily by Committee Democrats did not budge from the first vote, killing the bill.

“Perception is reality. In this instance, there is a perception that no-bid contracts are awarded based on something other than merit,” said Senator Wilk on Friday. “I am disappointed that the majority of the committee’s members do not share my concern about the perceived influence of donors in this administration’s procurement of costly no-bid contracts. They just sidelined a golden opportunity to restore the public’s confidence in government contracting.”

Many who had been following the bill noted that SB 1367 was considered a long shot due to both the need to fill contracts and the Democratic majority in the Senate.

“This bill would have hurt Democratic lawmakers way more than Republicans, because if this passed, it would have been a lot harder to just award no-bid contracts so willy nilly,” explained company advisor Matt Raines to the Globe on Friday. “Big time donors who give a lot to a charity to get these contracts, well, there is a lot wrong with it. Charitable donations are fine, and are even encouraged by society in general. But by doing this, they game the system to get more work. You know, ‘pay-to-play.’ And I can’t say that it is surprising that Senate Democrats refused to hear this, since it benefits many in office. It’s just disappointing to see elected officials do this.”

“Deep down, past all cynicism and everything, we all want to see government function the way it should without political influence and donations and corruption disrupting the lawmaking process. The Senate Committee had a chance to move forward on something that would help combat this, but they didn’t.”

As of Friday, Senator Wilk did not say if he would attempt to bring back the legislation next session.
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Evan Symon
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