As noted in this space and other venues, many provisions of the so-called "budget trailer bills" that the Legislature wrote in secret and hastily enacted last month had nothing, in fact, to do with the budget.
To establish a tenuous connection to the budget, Democratic legislators inserted token $1,000 appropriations in measures that make major changes in law.
One elevated Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase measure to the top of the November ballot. The maneuver is now being challenged in court, but regardless of the outcome, it's a shabby, underhanded way of rewriting election law without public notice, hearings or other democratic processes.
Senate Bill 1018, another of the so-called trailer bills, was not only written in secret but enhances secrecy in a new state program.
One of its provisions authorizes the "linkage" of California's huge new anti-greenhouse gas emission program to a newly formed private corporation and declares that it "should be done transparently. "
But a few paragraphs later, SB 1018 says, "Sections 11120 through 11132 do not apply to the Western Climate Initiative, Incorporated, or to appointees when performing their duties under this section."
Government Code Sections 11120 through 11132 comprise the long-standing body of law known as the Bagley-Keene Act. It declares that "public agencies exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business and the proceedings of public agencies (should) be conducted openly so that the public may remain informed" and mandates how state agency proceedings are to be transparent.
This is no small matter.
The California Air Resources Board and the governments of two Canadian provinces, Quebec and British Columbia, formed the private corporation in Delaware last year to help them manage the "cap-and-trade" of carbon emission credits.
Untold billions of dollars in fees will be levied on businesses, thus raising consumer costs for utilities, gasoline and other goods and services. The proceeds will be spent on whatever politicians favor in the name of fighting global warming, perhaps including a bullet train system.
With the Bagley-Keene exemption, WCIInc. can do in secrecy anything its directors all political appointees want to do.
Among other things, according to its articles of incorporation, it can "enter into, make, perform and carry out contracts for any corporate purpose without limitation as to amount, with any person, firm, association, corporation or body politic."
WCI Inc. and SB 1018, in combo, close the doors on the inner workings of a historically massive transfer of wealth, one that will affect the pocketbooks of millions of Californians.
Thus, by using the fiction of a budget trailer bill, politicians have made a mockery of open government.