How voters shook up California’s Legislature

legislatureSomething was different this year.

As lawmakers in Sacramento approached the last night of their session—the final opportunity to pass or kill bills for the year—they had had three days to figure out how to vote.

Three days may not sound like much, given the magnitude of the decisions involved in shaping policy for 39 million Californians. But it’s three more days than lawmakers used to have to make up their minds on some measures.

That’s because a new law voters imposed last year forbids them to act on a bill until it’s been available to the public for 72 hours. While most legislation is published online for several weeks or months, every year lawmakers write some new ones at the last minute, leaving almost no time for the public—or even their colleagues in the Legislature—to scrutinize the proposals.

The new routine was met with mixed reviews as lawmakers pounded through hundreds of proposals before adjourning in the wee hours Saturday.

“It takes a lot of tension out of the Legislature in the last week because we don’t have to be jammed with new bills that we haven’t read,” said Democratic Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose. “When you get stuff that’s written, like, two hours before, it’s tough to decide what’s best for your constituents.”

Beall said the three-day requirement helped him secure enough votes to pass a landmark package of bills intended to supply California with more affordable housing. It pushed the sponsoring lawmakers to explain the proposals earlier, he said, and answer questions. And when it came time to vote on the complex plan to raise real estate fees and streamline environmental reviews, Beall said, his colleagues were confident that no new wrinkle had been slipped in at the last minute.

“It gives us a little more comfort level in voting for something like this that is very complex,” he said.

On the other hand, Senate leader Kevin de León blamed the three-day rule for torpedoing one of his key bills, saying it gave him less time to negotiate. Powerful unions and utility companies opposed his proposal for all electricity in California to come from clean, renewable sources, and the Assembly declined to take it up for a vote.

“It’s taken away a lot of the creativity in terms of last-minute, last-second negotiations,” said de León, a Los Angeles Democrat. “People don’t understand: Seventy-two hours is like dog years during the last week of the legislative session. Seventy-two hours is like three months.”

Eliminating such last-minute deals was exactly the point, said Charles Munger, Jr., a Republican activist who spent nearly $11 million on the campaign for the law, which was Proposition 54 on the statewide ballot in 2016. Bills that can’t withstand three days of public review are probably not good for the public, he said.

“I think the process [this year] has worked better,” Munger said. “I’m pleased so far, and I will find out in due course if there were any problems.”

A fellow proponent of the initiative, former state lawmaker Sam Blakeslee, raised concern that the Legislature is not following its requirement to allow people to video-record legislative proceedings. The initiative says the Legislature must allow people to record and, by next year, make videos available online. Blakeslee, a Republican from San Luis Obispo, said a rule the Legislature has proposed since the new law kicked in could limit access for people who want to make their own recordings.

“We’re still working to help the Legislature come up with the right approach,” said Blakeslee.

The three-day rule has changed the game for lobbyists like Paul Bauer (far left). CALmatters photo by Max Whittaker

Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said that overall the new law has brought more transparency to the lawmaking process. But as the frenzy to pass bills reached a crescendo late Friday night, Nielsen complained that there remain ways to obfuscate.

“We are having policy committee hearings as we speak,” he said around 9 p.m.

Committees on banking, education and health held night hearings Friday on bills re-written just a few days earlier. That gave lawmakers scant opportunity—or none—for meaningful input, Nielsen said.

The law does not address how much time must pass between a committee hearing and a floor vote. It just says that before the bill goes to the floor, it must be published online for at least three days.

That’s a game changer for the hundreds of lobbyists who pack Capitol hallways in the final days of the lawmaking year. They’re used to urging legislators to make minor tweaks and do wholesale re-writes all night long.

Now, lobbyist Paul Bauer observed as he waited outside the Senate chamber, “You can’t ask them to change the bill. They won’t do it.”

eporter for CALmatters

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Comments

  1. ““It’s taken away a lot of the creativity in terms of last-minute, last-second negotiations,” said de León, a Los Angeles Democrat.”
    The only creativity it has taken away is their ability to screw us all with things that no one has read. i.e. the gut and replace tactic to sneak through legislation that no one wants.

  2. Tremors is right on, De Leon is an idiot at large who pushes his friggin agenda just to help his own. As far as I’m concerned CA doesn’t need any new legislation they need to start enforcing the legislation they have, who the heck need more rules and regulations, this is no longer a free country especially when you live in CA. Just look at all the taxes, parking is so screwed up and you have to pay to even park on side streets and yet they want to shelter illegals in these sanctuary cities and can’t even afford to keep up pension plans. As far as I’m concerned teachers are overpaid to start with just for the simple fact they push their political views rather than teach the actual subject. People I talk to feel once again they’re getting screwed and not being kissed because they are paying for everyone’s absorbent education and they have no kids going to school. I don’t mind helping those that are truly in need but I don’t like helping those that aren’t. Won’t be long that the entire middle class will require affordable housing because the liberal lunacy thinks they are Robin Hoods and take from those that work their a$$es off and give to those who milk the system.

  3. You can thank deLeon, Baldy and Mary Nicholls of CARB for giving us the highest gas prices in the Nation. We are now higher than HAWAII!! And becasue they have been taken in by the climate hoaxers.NASA/NOAA have cooked the books in lowering past temps to make current ones look higher. Australia just found out the same thing happened there except there the records go back to 1850. It is COLDER in Australia NOW than before!! And look at Europe. They are backing off on their green BS becasue the electric rates have skyrocketed. Denmark and Germany now have the highest electric rates in Europe. That is what those three aforementioned fools are pushing for. Even if there wasn’t a single carbon atom discharged into the atmosphere from Kaliforianstan, the World temp would barely be affected. And the furor over a couple of degrees increase is BS since the World has seen a lot higher over the eons and guess what folks, we are still here!!

  4. Time to throw these assholes out on their ears–same goes for baldy pecker nose brown

  5. retiredxlr8r says

    Three days is not near enough time for the public to review, I think it should be a whole year, and if any changes, the year starts over.
    California legislature and the governor are really close to being a government based on socialism, just look at their conduct and how they have taken freedoms and money away from California citizens. It is time to take back California or let it secede and then we can all watch the destruction of a state government and all who are connected to it, i.e., public employee unions, holly wood, etc…..

    • Secede? It can’t just simply secede as a seperate soveriegnty. The California people, businesses, and government, reside on U.S. federal territory. Because you sleep, work, or stand on land does not automatically confer ownership. Should the other 49 states comprising the UNION decide to disenfranchise California of its statehood, the regional government and its inhabitants loses the advantages of statehood and citizenship they had through it. OOOPS!

  6. ““It’s taken away a lot of the creativity in terms of last-minute, last-second negotiations,” said de León, a Los Angeles Democrat. “”
    Creativity??? Prop.54 removes as business as usual, outright fraud and chicaneryin a legislative bums rush, especially for seditionists like undocumentido De Leon.

  7. i understand that Hell is the ultimate climate change.

  8. All things considered this is a very good law. The degree of self-importance and narcissism held by the extreme left lawmakers in California is so disgusting it would be funny if it were not for the social and economic damage they impose. By adding this three day rule they can longer ram through insane last minute legislation. The real key to turning California around lies with practicing Hispanic Catholics or Protestants who get seriously involved in studying proposed legislation and taking stands against items that disparage their values and economic opportunities. Hopefully, this involvement will eventually lead to the ouster of the left-wing whack-jobs. Frankly, anglos and blacks are politically irrelevant in California just based on population numbers – it is a Hispanic and Asian ballgame, likely forever more.

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