California voters will face a number of choices on the ballot Nov. 8, but few easier than Proposition 54, the Public Display of Legislative Bills Prior to Vote measure.
If approved by voters, Proposition 54 would:
► Require that every bill is published in print and online at least 72 hours before each house of the Legislature can vote on it;
► Require that the Legislature make audiovisual recordings of its public proceedings and publish the recordings online within 24 hours;
► Allow any individual to record any open legislative proceedings either through audio or visual means and use these recordings for any legitimate purpose.
What could be more common sense than providing legislators the time to read and analyze a bill before voting on it?
This measure — promoted by former Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, and conservative activist Charles Munger Jr. — came about after years of legislators gutting and amending bills at the last minute, completely changing the content of a bill before pushing it through with no public debate or understanding. Heck, we’re betting a great number of the legislators never even read the final version of some bills as these would often pop up literally at the last minute.
Frankly, we’d feel better if they banned gut-and-amend entirely. It’s a gutless maneuver. Let proposals stand or fall on their own merit, in full sunshine. It makes no sense, for example, that a bill entitled “Save the puppies” ends up not mentioning puppies at all, but gives a nice tax break to friends of a sponsoring legislator.
Opponents claim the measure will slow down the legislative process and inhibit the bipartisan cooperation needed on many bills. Slowing down the process three days to give legislators a chance to read what they’re voting on doesn’t strike us as too much to ask. And bipartisanship might improve if both sides know what the discussion is about.
No, the only ones opposing this are the people who are happy carrying out the public’s business in the dark, leaving controversial and contentious legislation to be silently inserted, virtually unseen, gutting and amending bills put before an exhausted Legislature in the wee hours of a long legislative session.
Backers of the measure include California Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, California NAACP, California Chamber of Commerce, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and two leading open-government groups, the First Amendment Coalition and Californians Aware.
As we noted above, this will be one of the easier choices for voters this November.
We recommend a YES vote on Proposition 54.