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Proposition 54 – Legislative Proceedings

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Official Title:

Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.  (Read How is the California Constitution Amended?)

Overview:

The California State Legislature is made up of two houses - the State Assembly and the State Senate.  The process by which the Legislature passes bills and creates laws is governed by the California Constitution.  However, the Constitution does not currently require proposed bills to be in print or available on the Internet for a specific amount of time before they are acted upon.

This has led to criticism of last-minute changes in legislation, or entirely new bills being drafted (sometimes referred to as "gut-and-amends.")  Critics have expressed concern that legislators, interested stakeholder and the general public do not have adequate notice of the proposed language in bills before they are voted upon.

In addition, the California Constitution requires the proceedings of each house to be open and public, with some exceptions.  These public proceedings include floor sessions and committee hearings, some of which occur outside of the State Capitol.  Both the Senate and Assembly make audio or audiovisual recordings of most, but not all, of these proceedings available to the public online.  Current state law prohibits Assembly recordings from being used for political and commercial purposes.

Proposition 54 would make three changes to Legislative rules and responsibilities.  First, it requires the Legislature to ensure audiovisual recordings of all public proceedings are publicly accessible on the Internet within 24 hours and archived for at least 20 years thereafter.  Second, the proposition prohibits the Legislature from voting on a bill until it has been published online in its final form for at least 72 hours.  This prohibition includes exceptions for emergencies, such as natural disasters. Third, the proposition allows the recordings of public proceedings to be used for any legitimate purpose.

Fiscal Impact:

According to the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO), Proposition 54 would result in increased costs to state government of potentially $1 million to $2 million initially and about $1 million annually for making additional legislative proceedings available in audiovisual form on the Internet.

CCC Position:

No position

 

Support:

Supporters of Proposition 54 include the League of Women Voters of California, the California State Conference of the NAACP, California Common Cause, the League of California Cities, the California Taxpayers Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business/CA, the Small Business Action Committee, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Supporters argue that Proposition 54 makes our state government more transparent by stopping the practice of writing laws promoted by special interests behind closed doors and passing them with little debate or review.  This measure will thus end the passage of legislation that has been “gutted and amended” – a practice that replaces, at the very last minute, every word of a bill with new, complex language secretly written by special interests, thereby making major policy changes with no public input.  Supporters further assert that 69 California cities and 37 county boards of supervisors already post recordings of their meetings online, and the state Legislature should do the same. 

Opposition: - Opponents of Proposition 54 include the California Democratic Party, dozens of elected officials, environmental, and labor groups. 

Opponents believe that Proposition 54 is a complicated measure that introduces unnecessary new restrictions on the way laws are crafted by the Legislature.  Rather than promoting accountability, opponents contend that this proposition will slow down the ability of legislators to develop bipartisan solutions to our state’s most pressing problems.  It will give special interests more power to thwart the will of elected officials, and it will make it more difficult to address state emergencies.  Opponents also maintain that this measure will result in unnecessary and costly delays as even minor changes made to a bill will force lawmakers to wait three days to vote on it. 

Reflections on Church Teaching:

"People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens" (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 220).

"It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person. . . . As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life."  Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1913-1915.

"Building a world of respect for human life and dignity, where justice and peace prevail, requires more than just political commitment.  Individuals, families, businesses, community organizations, and governments all have a role to play.  Participation in political life in light of fundamental moral principles is an essential duty for every Catholic and all people of good will." Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, no.  57.  

Follow current bills in the state legislature on our Legislation tracking page - http://www.cacatholic.org/take-action/legislation-0