Commentary

09/13/2016  by Ed Coghlan

Prop 54 supporters make their case for increased transparency


(Photo Credit: Colleen Benelli/Flickr)

It is a rather inelegant but also an official term in the California Legislature Glossary. "Gut and amend" describes when legislators offer amendments to a bill removing the current contents in their entirety and replacing them with different provisions.

It happens more than you would think.

And when it happens at the last minute, you and I and millions of other Californians are hard pressed to know it’s even happening.

Lobbyists know, always. Legislators know, most of the time.

Do the people know? Not so much!

That’s one issue that Proposition 54 aims to remedy. The ballot initiative on the November ballot also requires open legislative hearings to be recorded and posted online within 24 hours and grants individuals the right to record and share videos of public meetings at the State Capitol for any legitimate purpose and without fear of criminal consequences.

Tuesday in Sacramento a group of California leaders briefed reporters about the proposition and why they believe the measure is essential to ensuring that legislative proceedings are conducted more openly and fairly.

“With thousands of new laws being proposed each session and with major changes happening at the last minute, the public’s ability to thoroughly review proposed laws and participate in the legislative process in a meaningful way is clearly broken,” said Jim Mayer, president and CEO of CA Fwd.

“CA Fwd has long advocated requiring legislation to be published in print and publicly posted online in its final form at least 72 hours before a final vote in the Assembly or Senate.”

Some, but not all, legislative hearings are recorded by Cal Channel as determined by legislative leadership. Prop 54 will change that.

“Prop 54 will allow the public to have the same access to these public hearings as special interests currently do by requiring all open legislative meetings are video recorded and posted online in 24 hours,” said Tom Scott, state executive director for the National Federation of Independent Business in California.

Other advocates pointed out that the measure has no partisan leanings and emphasized the reason why so many good government groups and organizations from across the political spectrum are actively supporting Prop 54.

“Voters can be assured, moving forward, that special interests will no longer have the power to rewrite laws at the last minute and that all proposed laws will be available to legislators and the public for at least 72 hours so the public can weigh in and the legislators will know what they are voting on,” said Dan Carrigg of the League of California Cities.

Like California Forward, the League of Women Voters of California (LWVC) has long supported the concept of a “72 hours in print" rule and says Prop 54 is a commonsense solution to these problems by creating a more open, honest and accountable government.

"California’s Constitution requires legislative proceedings to be open to the public,” said Helen Hutchison, president of the LWVC. “Not all public hearings are recorded and those meetings that go unrecorded are attended by a select few special interests who are paid to attend in person.”

For more information on Prop 54 and the other initiatives on the ballot, head to Voter's Edge California.

Categories: Democracy, Civic Engagement, Tech-enhanced Government, Accountability, Transparency, Governance Reform, Accountability, Transparency

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