Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s Legislation Would Offer $25,000 Prize for Innovative Concepts to Streamline State Government
The California State Assembly took one small step today in what could be a giant leap for good-government advocates, passing Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Los Angeles) “X-Prize” bill by a vote of 66-0. AB 2138 would offer cash incentives for fully developed and actionable plans that increase government efficiency and reduce government waste.
“This bill opens up government to the marketplace of ideas,” said Gatto. “Many people are frustrated with the inefficiencies of government and know exactly how to improve a system or process. This modest ‘California Government X-Prize’ provides the platform for creators and innovators to apply their knowledge to streamline California government.”
The legislation would authorize Governor Jerry Brown to select three state agencies, each of which will offer up to a $25,000 prize for Californians with great ideas and intellectual property that solves a specific problem, innovates a process, or otherwise streamlines a system within that agency. This modest ‘California Government X-Prize’ provides the platform for creators and innovators to apply their knowledge and will be open to all Californians not employed by the state.
In his book Citizenville, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom explained that incentive prizes “solve problems, help people, and save money, thereby fulfilling goals that span the whole political spectrum.” Newsom suggested government use them more often, especially in technology-rich California, and Gatto took up that mission.
Incentive prizes have been around since 1714, when the British government offered a £20,000 award (more than $4 million in today’s dollars) to the person able to calculate the longitude of a ship once it had sailed out of view of land. Most observers expected the prize to be won by a navigator or sailor, but it was a local watchmaker who brought a new expertise to the issue and solved the puzzle.
In the modern world, it is not so much the money as the renown that makes entering such contests attractive. The Federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a contest in 2011 to develop a multi-purpose combat vehicle. The winner of the DARPA contest, a blue-collar worker for Peterbilt Trucks named Victor Garcia, provided a blueprint for a new combat-support vehicle to the agency and received just $7,500 (but a lifetime of renown and recognition within his field). It is worth emphasizing that the agency did not acquire a mere idea (i.e., “you should build a new combat transport”), but actual intellectual property (plans and blueprints) that would normally cost millions of dollars and a significant amount of time.
“The people of California are resourceful and inventive,” said Gatto. “Incentives like this can showcase Californians’ creative solutions to some of the state’s most pressing issues.”
Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the California State Assembly. He represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake. www.asm.ca.gov/gatto.