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Proposition 54: Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.

The California Labor Federation does not support this measure. Want to learn more? Eric C Bauman discusses how Proposition 54 is not what it seems in California Labor’s 2016 Top Props Series. Check it out here.

vote-no

Click here to download California Labor’s 2016 Endorsements & Ballot Measures Analyses

A YES vote on this measure means:

The Legislature may not consider any legislation unless it is in print for 72 hours.  Individuals can audio and video tape legislative proceedings and use for legitimate purposes.

A NO Vote on this measure means:

The Legislature can continue to follow the rules in place for considering legislation.  Legislative proceedings may not be used for political or commercial purposes.

Official Secretary of State Ballot Summary:

  • Prohibits Legislature from passing any bill unless it has been in print and published on the Internet for at least 72 hours before the vote, except in cases of public emergency.
  • Requires the Legislature to make audiovisual recordings of all its proceedings, except closed session proceedings, and post them on the Internet.
  • Authorizes any person to record legislative proceedings by audio or video means, except closed session proceedings.
  • Allows recordings of legislative proceedings to be used for any legitimate purpose, without payment of any fee to the State.

Background:

The State Constitution requires the proceedings of each house of the Legislature 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 law prohibits Assembly recordings from being used for political or commercial purposes.

Passed in 1993, AB 1624 (Bowen), required any legislative bill, analysis, history, and votes to be made available via the internet.  Prior to the enactment of this bill, this information was only available through the Capitol Bill Room and various small publications that charged a fee to provide this information.  Today anyone with access to the internet can see the latest version of a bill for free in a system that is updated daily.

Most bills considered by the Legislature are generally in print for 72 hours prior a vote.  Bills considered by the Legislature that are in print in final form for less than 72 hours are usually due to one of three scenarios:   the bill is part of a complicated compromise reached through negotiations; the bill is part of the budget package; or the bill has technical problems and needs to be amended prior to final floor action. Technical problems could include the practice of eliminating an urgency clause from a measure to allow it to be adopted with only a majority vote.  Another example is chaptering out—when bills amend the same sections of code and technical changes are necessary so that the measures don’t chapter out the provisions of a different bill.

The passage of Proposition 25 in November of 2010 requires that the state budget be passed on time by a majority vote and includes financial penalties for members of the Legislature if the budget was not passed by the deadline.  California’s Constitution requires that the Legislature adopt the budget on or before June 15th of each year, giving the Legislature slightly more than four weeks from when it receives the May Revision on May 14th to when it must enact the budget.  The Assembly and the Senate often have to reconcile their different versions of the budget, resulting in lengthy budget and budget trailer bills in print close to the budget deadline.

This measure would amend the state Constitution to require that all legislation would have to be in print for 72 hours before any vote, including budget bills and bills with minor technical changes. It would require all proceedings of the Legislature to be recorded and made public and for those recordings to be used by any party without payment to the state. The recordings could be used for any legitimate commercial or political purpose, including political ads and other campaign purposes.

Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance estimate of fiscal impact: 

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.

Support and Opposition:

Supporters include Charles Munger, son of a billionaire and GOP donor, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Chamber of Commerce, NAACP, Common Cause, among others. They argue that special interests at the State Capitol routinely make last-minute changes to legislation to push through political favors without public comment or discussion. They state that this creates reckless legislation benefiting a few special interests at the expense of voters. They argue this measure will create a more open, honest, and accountable government.

Opponents may argue that this is just another tool for special interests to unravel legislative deals at the last second. Some of the state’s most important and historic legislation, such as the 1959 Fair Housing Act, the 2006 climate change bill (AB32) and the 2014 water bond were all tough votes taken without 72 hour notice. This measure, they could argue, would subject legislators to attacks from special interest groups and derail important legislation. They also could argue that this measure would turn legislative proceedings into 30-second political attack ads to intimidate legislators and reduce the business of the legislature into political grandstanding. They could argue that the Munger initiative gives special interests more tools to prevent lawmakers from getting work done, whether through unnecessary delays in enacting legislation or ways to demonize the Legislature.

Prior Positions:

The Labor Federation opposed Proposition 31 of November 2012, which contained some of the provisions in this proposition.


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