AB 706 Sets Bad Precedent for Future of Capitol Annex Project

On May 13, in an effort to yet again foster a lack of accountability and transparency in decisions made around the Capitol Annex Project, Assemblymember Cooley, chair of the Joint Committee on Rules (JRC), introduced AB 706 to further claim ownership and control over this costly and wasteful project.

AB 706 would re-affirm the governance structure outlined in AB 1826 (the Capitol Annex Project’s foundational bill), which gives authority to just three individuals – Assemblymember Cooley, Senator Hertzberg, and Erin Suhr, Director of Operations of the Governor’s Office – to dictate scope and expenditures of the project. Why should an executive committee of three decide the fate of a more than $1 billion project in private, without the watchful eye of the public?  

Kate Riley of Trees for Sacramento and member of Public Accountability for Our Capitol (PAC), said in public comment during the bill’s hearing that the bill continues the trend of “no notice of meetings, no access to meetings, no disclosure of the decision-making process,” for the public to engage on this project. Further, she says, the governance structure laid out in AB 1826 “has created a situation where literally hundreds of millions of dollars and decisions are being made by two members of the Legislature and one representative from the Governor’s office.”

In a letter of opposition sent by PAC prior to the bill’s hearing, the group said they are “concerned that AB 706 could become a vehicle for later amendments that could be even worse.”

Dick Cowan, another member of Public Accountability for Our Capitol, also raised questions about the “urgency statute” status of AB 1826 which cannot take effect according to the Constitution, stating that “the correct action is disgorgement of funds paid thus far to MOCA, Plant Construction, SOM architectural team, and Turner Construction for the design, planning, consulting, cost estimating, investigative and physical work for the Project.”

The JRC must suspend the secrecy around the Capitol Annex Project which prevents the public and legislative members from meaningfully participating in this significant project. The Capitol Annex Project is being managed through a dictatorship, not a democracy – and Californians deserve better.