McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

Oversight is intended to ensure government accountability. A critical role for the legislative branch of government is oversight regarding the executive branch activities. Fundamentally, oversight is intended to ensure government accountability and make certain that tax dollars are spent properly and efficiently by the executive branch of state government.

Now in 2017, Assembly Committee on Rules Chairman Ken Cooley, a Democrat from the Sacramento area, released a document entitled “2017 Oversight Handbook,” and he provided it to his legislative colleagues and members of the public.

This Legislative Oversight Handbook provides a toolkit and offers useful advice to support legislative committees as they prepare and conduct oversight activities. According to his handbook, oversight is broadly defined as reviewing, monitoring, and supervising the implementation of public policy.

Legislative oversight can take several forms including private communications between the legislative and executive branches, public hearings, the state budget process and even individual pieces of legislation.

The Legislature also has the Bureau of State Audits which the Joint Legislative Audit Committee can request audits be done and investigations into the executive branch of state government and even local agencies and special districts.

There are essentially two types of oversight hearings that the Legislature can conduct. One is more informational in nature while the other is investigatory in its approach.

Informational hearings essentially allow legislators to learn about a particular topic or a particular state agency or department. These types of hearings also educate legislators, staff, and members of the public even who listen into the hearing. These usually occur when the Legislature wants to learn more about a particular subject matter.

An investigatory hearing is more focused on fact finding. This type of hearing is the traditional oversight hearing wherein the Legislature needs to understand what in particular transpired, such as when the Legislature in prior years has investigated information technology procurements that went well over budget and had significant delayed timelines.

You can find the full transcript of today’s podcast here.