There's a small debate brewing in media circles about whether LA Weekly's story this week on “The Worst Legislator in California” — San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes — constitutes true news.
The story is based on a San Jose Mercury News database of bills that are actually ghostwritten by lobbyists and special-interest groups and then proposed by your state legislators, often word-for-word. Fuentes has 10 of those, out of 24 bills he introduced in 2007-2008, under his belt. Bravo.
Except that dean of state capital reporting Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee says all that's old news.
“This is an old story,” he tells CJR (Columbia Journalism Review), which posted a piece Friday about the Weekly's story. “People come in from out of town, discover something, and they want to hype their story by saying that there is something the capitol press corps is not telling you.”
Dan is the man. And he has a point. But the Weekly editor who assigned the story, Jill Stewart, ain't exactly from out of town. She covered Sacramento for many years.
And, we can vouch for this — people, as a nebulous mass, sometimes don't even know what city they live in. That legislators regularly get their bill-writing done by special interests is one of those things that needs a strong ray of light, even if it's common knowledge to insiders.
Dan Morain, el otro Dan at the Bee, seems to agree:
“It's common knowledge among about a thousand people out of the thirty-seven million who live in California that bills are sponsored. If you cover Sacramento, if you work in the capitol, you know about sponsored bills. The vast majority of people have no clue that bills are written by lobbyists.”
What do you know about sponsored bills in California? Comment below.