More than two dozen state Senate select committees with staff costs exceeding $5 million annually lack performance standards and requirements that they document their work, according to Senate leaders, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Some of the committees have focused on health-related issues, such as developing legislation (SB 946) to require insurers to cover certain therapy for children with autism.
New Rules for Senate Select Committees
In 2011, the Senate adopted rules that aim to boost accountability for the select committees.
The rules require potential select committee chairs to file a written description of the group's:
- Work plan;
- Time table;
- Staffing needs;
- Anticipated hearings; and
- Work product.
However, the rules do not apply to 35 select committees that were created one week before the Senate adopted the new requirements.
Senate Select Committee Details
Of the 27 select committees assigned at least one paid employee for the current two-year legislative session, 14 have not held a single meeting in 2011 or 2012.
Six of the remaining 13 select committees have met once, while three have met twice and four have met three times over the two-year period, the Bee reports.
According to the Bee, the Senate does not examine the effectiveness of the select committees.
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said that the committees give lawmakers time to study an issue outside of the regular committee structure. He said that the committees "allow members with an interest in a particular subject to publicly explore that matter without having the time pressure of pushing what might be an imperfect bill."
Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) said, "If there's a legitimate purpose, and people are actually getting together and working on advancing policy, that's fine. But there are a lot of select committees out there that don't do a lot."
Chuck DeVore -- former Assembly member and senior fellow for fiscal policy at Texas Public Policy Foundation -- said, "[T]he people have a right to know how much these staffers are getting paid, for whom they're working and what sort of work they're doing" (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 8/12).