72-hour rule helps, but more legislative reforms needed – Orange County Register

The new law that requires a 72-hour review period for bills before they are voted on by the California Legislature appears to be working — to a degree.

In past years, before the voters approved Proposition 54 requiring bills to be in print for three days before floor votes, lobbyists for powerful special interests stuffed all kinds of things into bills just before they were passed on the final night of the legislative session. Or they got parts of bills they didn’t like stripped away just before floor votes.

And the public never knew what hit them until it could all be sorted out after the fact — with the special-interest damage already done.

But that changed with the lopsided passage last November of Prop. 54, which requires every bill to be made public in its final form — precluding amendments — for three days before it receives a final floor vote.

As a result, just 13 bills were amended or revised on Sept. 12 — which was the last day changes could be made before floor votes on Sept. 15, the final day of the legislative session. And everything the Assembly or Senate voted on in that final day had been available for review for the mandated 72 hours.

That’s progress.

But does it make California’s legislative process a model of transparency and careful consideration by lawmakers?

Hardly. Hundreds of bills received consideration during the final week of the Sacramento session. We use the term “consideration” lightly, since no mortal can possibly digest the final versions of all those bills flying through each house in that ludicrously hectic final week.

That’s no way to run a government.

But it’s the way we run our government in Sacramento, and it ought to change.

On the final day of the session, major housing bills (a $75 fee on some real estate transactions to fund affordable housing, and a $4 billion bond measure), a bill to move California’s presidential primary to March, the “sanctuary state” bill and a bond measure for water and parks all passed, the latter two after midnight.

Certainly, there were big-ticket items decided earlier in the session, such as the cap-and-trade extension and the gas-tax hike to fund transportation works. But too many issues were left for the last-minute rush.

If that is ever to be fixed, no doubt it will have to be through another proposition passed by voters, somehow limiting the number of votes that can be taken in a day or week. Certainly, legislative leadership wouldn’t change…

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