Soapbox

Prop. 54 will lessen power of special interests at Capitol

Lobbyists huddle outside the state Senate chambers as they wait to talk to lawmakers last September.
Lobbyists huddle outside the state Senate chambers as they wait to talk to lawmakers last September. Associated Press file

It’s not often that our organizations are on the same side of an issue. But when it comes to giving voters a stronger voice at the state Capitol through greater transparency, we couldn’t agree more.

It’s time to reduce the power of special interests by shining a light on the secretive backroom deals that have become the status quo. We’re fed up with the public’s business being conducted under a shroud of secrecy. That’s why we’re urging voters to approve Proposition 54 in November.

Proposition 54 is one of the most significant ballot measures in California in decades. It would change the way business is done in Sacramento by leveling the playing field between voters and special interests whose undue influence damages policies important to small business owners, taxpayers, seniors and families.

The measure would make three common-sense changes to the state Constitution. First, it would require that all bills be published and posted on the internet for at least 72 hours before a final vote in either house of the Legislature. This will stop last-minute shenanigans by powerful lobbyists who routinely strip language from an existing bill, replace it with new language and ram it through before most legislators and the public have time to review it.

Second, it would require all open legislative meetings to be recorded and posted online within 24 hours. This will give every citizen an equal opportunity to view any public hearing, any vote cast and any word said on the floors of the Assembly and Senate. Currently, the Legislature does not record and broadcast every public meeting. Since very few Californians can travel to Sacramento every time the Legislature takes up an issue they care about, many proceedings go completely unobserved and leave no record of what was said. That benefits the lobbyists paid to strike backroom deals.

Third, Proposition 54 would grant all individuals the right to record and share videos of public legislative proceedings for any legitimate purpose. This long overdue reform will bring the Legislature into the 21st century with all of its available technologies. No longer will it be considered unlawful for someone to record a public proceeding with their smartphone and share that recording.

Although a small handful of political insiders may oppose Proposition 54 to maintain the status quo, the measure has broad support outside the Capitol from a large coalition representing voters and issues across the political spectrum. Many are good-government organizations that have spent many years working to create a more transparent and effective government in California. Supporters include the League of California Cities, the California NAACP, California Chamber of Commerce, Latin Business Association, League of Women Voters and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, to name a few.

The people of California deserve a more transparent government that is more open, honest and accountable. This measure will ensure their voices are heard in our political process and lead to better policies for our state. We strongly urge voters to say no to special interests and yes to Proposition 54 in November.

Tom Scott is California executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business and can be contacted at Tom.Scott@nfib.org. Kathay Feng is executive director of California Common Cause and can be contacted at kfeng@commoncause.org.

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