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California Pay to Play Briefing on Thurs, Feb 9th

*California Pay to Play Briefing: Join Nielsen Merksamer Attorneys for a webinar on Thursday, February 9 at 11:00 am to discuss the implementation of SB 1439 and its impact on contributions to local elected officials. Contributors and recipients now face an even more complicated landscape when determining whether a contribution to a local official is permissible and whether an official may be disqualified from participating in a proceeding involving a donor, a participant or their agents.  Please RSVP to Donna Flannagan at to attend.* 


As previously reported in our weekly Essential Ethics blog, California’s SB 1439 (Glazer) was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 29, 2022. The bill, which went into effect January 1, 2023, amended California’s pay-to-play law in the Political Reform Act to apply to contributions to local elected officials making decisions involving a “license, permit, or other entitlement for use.”

  • SB 1439 removed the exception for “local government agencies whose members are directly elected by the voters,” thereby extending the provisions of Government Code 84308 to all officers of local agencies, whether appointed or elected.
  • The law extended the existing prohibition on contributions from 3 to 12 months following the date a final decision is rendered in the proceeding. It did not affect the provision allowing an officer to avoid disqualification by returning a contribution within 30 days, provided certain other conditions are met.

We prepared a detailed analysis for clients regarding the unclear impact of the law, proposed resolutions, including the prospect for litigation, and the short-term precautions that should be taken by contributors and agencies. Others in the regulated community have also sought guidance and provided interim advice.

In response to comments from Nielsen Merksamer and several other law firms and interested parties, the FPPC adopted an opinion in December confirming contributions to local elected officials made prior to the bills effective date of January 1, 2023 will not trigger the new recusal requirements.

The FPPC will attempt to further address practical concerns for application of the amended law through rule making. The Commission plans to update regulation sections 18438.1–18438.8 interpreting and implementing Section 84308 due to the passage of SB 1439. The FPPC plans to notice the regulations in February and adopt them at the Commission’s meeting in April.

Additionally, the FPPC’s 2023 budget provides funding for the Commission to add seven new attorney positions in the enforcement division, in light of new enforcement policy directives. We expect this added staff will facilitate enforcement of the expanded restrictions of SB 1439.

Join us at our briefing to hear more about the changes to the law and its implementation and impact from our attorneys.