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Education Coalition accuses lawmakers of budget secrecy

Education advocates on Tuesday accused lawmakers of withholding draft language for proposed budget trailer bills.

"We believe this policy is undemocratic and violates the spirit of the legislative process in that it denies the public the ability to review and offer input on proposed changes in law that will impact them," said a letter the Education Coalition sent to Sen. Denise Ducheny, who co-chairs the Budget Conference Committee. "In addition, we are concerned that this policy of secrecy will require subsequent clean-up legislation to correct or clarify language that could have been written properly with the review."

Ducheny was traveling and not available for comment Tuesday, her staff said. A message left for her co-chair, Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, was also not returned.

Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a nonprofit public policy group, said obtaining trailer bill drafts has varied over the years, depending on an advocate's relationship with the staff member. However, she said "the public ought to have the right to comment on what the Legislature votes on before they vote on it."

Education Coalition members such as the Association of California School Administrators and the California Teachers Association say it has become increasingly more difficult to review draft language. "This year there is apparently a prohibition against sharing the draft language," the letter stated.

Rick Pratt, assistant executive director with the California School Boards Association, said it's imperative the public reviews proposals because the administration or lawmakers could jam policy changes into the budget without allowing public vetting. .

"The whole process is less and less public," Pratt said.