The issue: Three-day notification allows public scrutiny of bills
State Sen. Lois Wolk is once again fighting the good fight.
Wolk, D-Davis, and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, introduced common-sense legislation last week that would require the Legislature to be transparent in how it pushes through legislation.
SENATE CONSTITUTIONAL Amendment 10 and its companion, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4, would require the Legislature to provide all legislation for public review at least 72 hours before final passage. The companion legislation, if approved, would place the notion before voters in a future election.
A 72-hour posting requirement is nothing new in California. The state’s open meetings law, approved by the Legislature, requires such notice of local government actions. The state’s colleges and universities are subject to similar posting requirements, also approved by the Legislature.
Sacramento’s finest, however, set vastly different rules for their own conduct. The process of gut-and-amend, for example, allows the Legislature to approved shell bills and add language later, with little or no debate or opportunity for public review.
Voters approved Proposition 25 in 2010 by a 55-45 percent margin. That measure required lawmakers to pass a budget by the constitutional deadline or forfeit their pay each day after the deadline until a budget is in place. When no such budget was in place on time in 2011, the state controller started withholding legislators’ pay.
Legislators sued, and won, thereby thwarting the will of the electorate.
THIS IS JUST ONE example of how the Legislature simply acts as it wishes. Here’s another: The Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times sued the Assembly in August 2011 to gain access to Assembly operational budget documents. They did so after a Democratic assemblyman said his office budget was cut after he voted against that year’s budget, the only Democrat to break with the party. The Assembly refused to produce the documents.
The newpapers won their case, but little good it did. Initial legislative efforts to change the Assembly’s budget disclosure practices were blocked.
Wolk has felt the party’s wrath for past votes against the leadership. Now she’s helping lead the charge to add basic transparency to the Legislature’s business practices. It’s a good idea, one that has proved its worth time and time again at the local government level.
THE BILLS SHOULD be passed by both houses of the Legislature, and voters should support them.