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Senators vote to give up free tickets to games, concerts

May 31, 2012 |  1:44 pm

Under a measure approved by the state Senate, California lawmakers would no longer be able to accept concert and sports tickets, golf games and other gifts from companies lobbying the Legislature
Under a measure approved Thursday by the state Senate, California lawmakers would no longer be able to accept concert and sports tickets, golf games and other gifts from companies lobbying the Legislature.

The measure was proposed by Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) because of what he said was his concern that the Legislature is tainted when members accept spa treatments, Lakers box seats and Disneyland tickets from special interests.

"Every time an elected official receives one of these gifts, it erodes the public trust and undermines the Legislature’s ability to lead on the big issues facing our state," Blakeslee said before the 33-1 vote to approve the measure and send it to the Assembly.

Current state law prohibits lobbyists from providing more than $10 per month in gifts to elected state officials, but their employers -- including oil, tobacco and insurance firms that hire lobbyists to seek favorable treatment from lawmakers -- can give up to $420 per year.

As a result, elected state officials were able to accept $4 million in gifts in the last decade, including tickets from AT&T to Lakers games, a San Francisco Giants World Series game, and golf at Torrey Pines in La Jolla.

SB 1426 would ban state lawmakers from accepting specific gifts that Blakeslee said do not have a legislative purpose, including theater and concert tickets; spa treatments; golf, skiing, hunting and fishing trips; gift cards and tickets to professional sporting events. Tickets to college sporting events would be limited to $25.

"To the public, these gifts just look bad,” said Pedro Morillas, legislative director of the California Public Interest Research Group. "They only serve to fuel the public's perception that it takes money and gifts to get what you want out of a politician."

Sen. Joel Anderson (D-San Diego) cast the only vote against the gift ban. He was not immediately available for comment.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: State legislators each year attend a golf tournament sponsored by AT&T, which was held last year at Pebble Beach. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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