When key state leaders gathered Monday for a press conference to promote a bill (SB 1349) authorizing the Secretary of State to create a modern online campaign finance reporting and disclosure system, it represented another step forward in California’s era of reform.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Senator Bob Hertzberg, Los Gatos software entrepreneur Jim Heerwagen, California Common Cause Executive Director Kathay Feng, and California Business Roundtable president Rob Lapsley announced their support to a system that will replace California’s antiquated Cal-Access technology.

“To restore public trust in government Californians need to know who is paying for campaigns and influencing our elected officials. California Forward thanks Secretary Padilla and Senator Hertzberg for leading the effort on upgrading and modernizing the state’s campaign finance technology, which is a critical first step to making the data easy to access,” said CA Fwd co-chair Lenny Mendonca.

CA Fwd has long argued for the need to increase transparency and accountability in government. Upgrading Cal-Access is an important next step. This bill will amend, in part, the Political Reform Act, which means it needs bipartisan support to get a two-thirds vote. (Here’s a link to our report issued in 2014, “Rebooting Campaign Finance Disclosure”)

Heerwagen, who had been gathering signatures to place an initiative on the ballot, announced that he is pulling his effort. His initiative would have done several things, including allocating money to create a modern campaign finance and disclosure system.

“We also thank Jim Heerwagen for his leadership in aligning the principles of his Public Right to Know initiative with Sen. Hertzberg’s bill,“ Mendonca added. “Mr. Heerwagen’s work to raise the issues and outline how to fix them has been essential to elevate and energize this “money in politics” movement. We look forward to continuing to work with him on this and other critically important issues.”

Mendonca also pointed out that the new initiative process designed two years ago in the Ballot Initiative Transparency Act has worked exactly as designed to align legislative solutions with important issues raised by citizens.

As we wrote in 2014, “it should be noted that the winds of positive change are blowing in California. The political reforms that have been enacted (many of which CA Fwd worked with others to help bring to life) are encouraging leaders to be more responsive. But more reforms are needed to the electoral process, the initiative process and to transparency laws to create government accountability for results.”

Californians want to know who is paying for campaigns and influencing our elected officials. California actually has some of the strongest reporting systems for campaign finance and conflict of interest in the country – it’s getting a hold of that data that’s the problem. SB 1349 addresses that.