Viewpoints

Californians still kept in dark by Assembly. It’s time to fix that.

California State Assembly.
California State Assembly. AP

For years, important legislation has emerged from the Capitol through an unseemly legislative practice known as “gut and amend.”

Foreign to civics books, this procedure allows the majority party to rewrite an existing bill and quickly ram it through the Legislature without a chance for public scrutiny.

Last November, 8.6 million California voters took to the ballot box and put an end to the practice – or so we thought.

Approved with 65 percent of the vote, Proposition 54 requires that a bill be in print and posted on the Internet for 72 hours before it is considered on the floor of the Legislature.

Yet the Assembly is ignoring the new requirement by passing 89 bills that were publicly available for less than 72 hours.

Democratic leadership argues that Proposition 54’s reference to a bill’s “final form” means the 72-hour notice only applies to a bill once it has moved to the second house.

That interpretation ignores the plain language of Proposition 54, which states that “no bill may be passed” unless the 72-hour notice period is observed. The language is not limited to one house or the other. The ballot argument for the initiative explicitly states that the measure applies to votes of “each house of the Legislature.” Even if this were a close legal question – which it is not – the Legislature should embrace the spirit of 54 and err on the side of transparency.

In an exquisite irony, the Assembly resolution that provided the basis for flouting the 72-hour requirement, HR 1, itself flouted the 72-hour requirement – being printed just hours before it was approved in a party-line vote, with Democrats in the majority.

To begin to repair the damage to our institution, Assembly leaders should take two steps. First, the 89 bills that passed the Assembly without 72 hours’ notice will head to the Senate. If the Senate approves them, they should come to the Assembly for a final vote with proper notice. Second, the Assembly should change its rules to require compliance with Proposition 54.

I am introducing a resolution seeking to bring the Assembly’s rules into line with Proposition 54 by requiring 72 hours’ notice before votes on all bills, regardless of the house of origin. Respect for the will of the people we as legislators were elected to serve demands nothing less.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley is Republican from Rocklin.

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