California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed several bills to keep state parks open and ensure greater spending oversight after a scandal in which parks officials hid $54 million.
According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, the bills establish a two-year moratorium on parks closures, provide about $30 million in funding and give the parks new fundraising tools.
AB1478 by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, splits $30 million to help state parks that already are at risk of closure stay open, complete overdue maintenance and provide $10 million to match donations from private groups and local governments as a way to keep parks from closing.
The top parks official resigned this summer after it was revealed that some employees kept $54 million hidden in department special funds for more than a decade, even as 70 parks were threatened with closure. Blumenfield said rogue bureaucrats lied to all Californians and noted that hundreds of individuals and organizations made donations to save the parks.
“My heart goes out to parks advocates who feel burned by this fiasco,” Blumenfield said in a news release. “They heroically raised millions to help keep parks open. … This bill was designed to ensure that a lot of good will come from their hard work.”
Brown also signed AB1589 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, which gives the parks department new fundraising tools, including allowing Californians to donate to the department by checking a box on their income tax returns.
The new laws also give the State Park and Recreation Commission more authority to oversee the Department of Parks and Recreation.