Proposition 13 Is Working as Intended

We were a bit taken aback with the recent article in the Register by reporter Teri Sforza rhetorically asking if major businesses in Orange County are paying enough property taxes. Only toward the end of the piece was there an acknowledgement that in 2020, California voters rejected the “split roll” proposal by voting against Proposition 15. That measure would not only have imposed the largest property tax increase in California history, but it was also the most serious threat to Proposition 13 since the taxpayer protection measure’s overwhelming approval by voters in 1978.

The same people who have always wanted to destroy Proposition 13 so they can raise taxes even higher are now claiming that Prop. 13 must go because it has caused “inequities.” Actually, Proposition 13 is working precisely as intended to achieve a sustainable balance between tax stability and revenue growth. That’s why for over 40 years Prop. 13 has enjoyed such consistent popularity that it has earned the moniker, “The Third Rail of California Politics.” Even after the costly and long-running campaign against it, polling reveals that 60% of Californians believe that Prop. 13 is “mostly a good thing.”

More importantly, Proposition 13 is also good tax policy. First, it limits the property tax rate to 1 percent of a property’s value. Second, it limits the annual increase in taxable value to 2 percent annually. Under Prop. 13, even if a property doubles in market value in a single year, its “taxable value,” against which the assessor applies the one percent tax rate, can only be increased two percent per year. Third, Prop. 13 requires reassessment of property when it changes hands. This provides a stable and predictable source of tax revenue to local governments which has grown virtually every year since 1978 in percentages that exceed inflation and population growth.

Detractors frequently attempt to assert that voters were unaware that Prop. 13 would apply to commercial property in the same way it protects residential property. That too is false. During the Prop. 13 campaign in 1978, opponents pressed that argument in their campaign ads and literature, and it was specifically mentioned in the official ballot pamphlet itself. Voters considered the claim and enacted Prop. 13 anyway.

Sforza quotes longtime Prop. 13 critic and split-roll advocate, Lenny Goldberg, who claims that commercial property in Orange County is underassessed. Goldberg knows better as he is fully aware that, under Prop. 13, taxable value depends on the market value at the time of acquisition. (Despite continuing his jihad against Proposition 13, Goldberg now resides out of state, avoiding the high tax burden in California).

Goldberg is particularly disingenuous when he argues that two major companies in Orange County are under-assessed because commercial properties are reassessed only when a single buyer assumes at least 50% ownership or there are physical improvements to the property. “So if three purchasers purchase 100% of a property, no change of ownership occurs.”

The definition of “change of ownership” is not in Proposition 13, but in laws passed by the Legislature. The 50% ownership threshold for reassessment could be remedied with a change to the law without changing one word of Proposition 13. In fact, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the business community have repeatedly offered to fix this “change of ownership” definition only to have labor organizations, represented by Goldberg, slam the door. Those legislative proposals have been offered by politicians as diverse as former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, an ultra -progressive from San Francisco, and Orange County’s own Patricia Bates.

California’s taxes are among the highest in every category except for property taxes, and even then, we are in the upper middle among states on per capita property tax collection. Only one thing keeps us from the misery of being at the top of that list: Proposition 13.

Click here to read the full article in these OC Register

A Tax Revolt in San Francisco?

Citizen tax revolts have been waged throughout American history. Indeed, the genesis of the United States was a dispute with Great Britain over taxes. The issue came to a head when colonists in Massachusetts dressed as Native Americans and dumped English tea into Boston Harbor. Literally, the original Tea Party.

But American independence didn’t stop citizens from protesting high taxes. Shays’ Rebellion in 1786 was an armed uprising in Massachusetts in response to a debt crisis among the citizenry and in opposition to the state government’s increased efforts to collect taxes both on individuals and their trades. Many historians believe that the difficulty in suppressing the revolt under the Articles of Confederation provided significant motivation to form a more powerful central government.

While the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 did in fact provide stronger federal authority, it didn’t prevent tax revolts. The Whiskey Rebellion, a fierce revolt against the new tax on distilled spirits imposed shortly after the formation of the federal government, was an early test of George Washington’s presidency.

Fast forward to more modern times. California’s own Proposition 13, passed in a landslide election in 1978, initiated the modern tax revolt. And, in an echo of 1776, a new Tea Party movement began in 2009 with a call for lower taxes, a reduction of the national debt, and less government spending. The movement launched the political careers of several members of Congress, many of whom are still serving.

Today’s media likes to portray those of us associated with taxpayer advocacy as ultra-conservative. But in a surprising development, there is a nascent “tax revolt” in the Castro District of San Francisco — whose population, by any objective standard, is the polar opposite of “conservative.”

According to an article by Jessica Flores in the San Francisco Chronicle, business owners in the Castro have repeatedly complained to city officials about the damage that homeless people have inflicted in the neighborhood, only to have the city fail to address the problem.

In response to the indifference of city officials, the Castro Merchants Association sent a letter to city officials urging them to take action on behalf of the beleaguered neighborhood. The letter described the usual problems associated with California’s horrific homeless problem: Vandalized storefronts, open drug use, business owners and customers, not to mention the “psychotic episodes.”

Now merchants say the situation has gotten so bad that they’re threatening to possibly stop paying city taxes and fees. “If the city can’t provide the basic services for them to become a successful business, then what are we paying for?” a leader of the association told The Chronicle. “You can’t have a vibrant, successful business corridor when you have people passed out high on drugs, littering your sidewalk. These people need to get help.”

This threat to withhold taxes and fees may not be on the same level as the violent Whiskey Rebellion or the political sea change of Prop. 13. But it does reflect a problem more pronounced in California than almost anywhere else in America: Not getting the services we pay for.  Is it really so surprising that all citizens simply want services commensurate with the taxes they pay? In fact, complaints about California’s high tax burden often take a back seat to the fact that we pay a lot and get so little.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

Weak Attacks on Proposition 13 Fail Again

Two-thirds of California voters consistently tell pollsters that they think Proposition 13 is a good thing, but even with more than 40 years of constant support, Proposition 13 is still attacked by people who are mad that it’s so effective at protecting taxpayers.

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Every argument against Proposition 13 boils down to one thing: Control. They may mask it in buzzwords like “economic dynamism” and “equity,” but the reality is that they think they know how to spend your money and use your land better than you do.

California has the highest or near highest tax rate in every category except property taxes and even then, the state is 14th in property tax collections per capita, according to the latest data from the Tax Foundation.

In fact, county assessors are reporting sizeable growth in the value of taxable property. Locally, Riverside County reported growth of 9.26%, reaching a net total of $369 billion in taxable property. San Bernardino County reported a historic high of $288 billion in value, representing a 9.3% increase from last year. Orange County reported a 6.37% increase, to $721.25 billion. In Los Angeles, the county assessment roll grew by a record $122 billion (a 6.95% increase that brings the roll to $1.89 trillion in total net value) during the past year.

Similar gains are happening statewide. Here is just a sampling: Contra Costa County, 7.79%; Sacramento County, 8%; San Mateo County, 8.34%; Santa Clara County, 7.46%; Ventura County, 7.3%; and Yolo County, 7.23%; Marin County, 6.55%; Amador County, 7.03%; Butte County, 6.81%; Humboldt County, 4.73%; Imperial County, 5.6%; Mendocino County, 2.41%; Modoc County, 4.6%; Napa County, 7.12%; Placer County, 9.2%; Santa Cruz County, 6.33%; Sierra County, 6.37%; and Stanislaus County, 6.82%.

While this is likely welcomed news in the county halls of administration, before Prop. 13 it would have been met with great anxiety among homeowners. That’s because before Prop. 13, property tax assessments were based on current market value and property was regularly reassessed. Some property owners saw their assessments jump 50 to 100% in just one year and their tax bills jump correspondingly — even if the gains in value were only on paper. People were losing their homes to higher taxes.

Click here to read the full article at the Daily Breeze

A Win for Direct Democracy and Taxpayers in San Bernardino County

Entrenched politicians loathe the tools of direct democracy, which include the powers of initiative, referendum, and recall. Both at the state and local levels, they do everything they can to limit the exercise of those powers, including going to court to nullify what voters do at the ballot box.

That’s what happened with Measure K in San Bernardino, which amended the County Charter to impose a one-term limit on members of the Board of Supervisors and reduce their pay from more than $200,000 per year to $5,000 per month. The Red Brennan Group, which spearheaded Measure K, said it puts the Board of Supervisors’ salary on par with the median household income in the county, and that a one-term limit would incentivize elected officials to focus on serving the public rather than maneuvering for reelection.

Unsurprisingly, Measure K was extraordinarily popular with voters who passed it by a two-thirds majority (66.84%). But while the citizens of San Bernardino County were celebrating, the Board of Supervisors launched a counter-attack by filing a lawsuit to get Measure K nullified. The Red Brennan Group stepped up to defend their initiative and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation sent a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the legality of the measure.

Along with their lawsuit challenging Measure K, the Board of Supervisors ran to their allies in Sacramento to change the law in a way that would undercut the initiative. Assembly Bill 428 would prohibit term limits of less than two terms for a County Board of Supervisors and further provided that a Board can set the pay of its own members. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association objected to the bill and argued that it thwarted the will of the voters in San Bernardino. The author of the bill, Assemblyman Chad Mayes, I-Yucca Valley, denied that his bill would have that impact but his representations lacked credibility. Eventually, he relented and agreed to insert language into the bill that made clear it would “not affect any term limits that were legally in effect prior to January 1, 2022, in any county.”

Last week, an appeals court issued a tentative ruling in the lawsuit and sided with the voters, upholding Measure K’s one-term limit and the cut to the supervisors’ pay. The court also vindicated HJTF’s interpretation that the original version of AB 428 was an attempt to thwart the will of the voters in San Bernardino.

Noting that the amendment resolved any ambiguity, the court wrote, “Plainly, then, the Legislature did not contemplate that AB 428 would undo Measure K. To the contrary, it agreed with the Jarvis Association that the unamended version threatened Measure K, and thus it amended AB 428 so as to let Measure K stand.”

It’s satisfying to be recognized for the work HJTA does in defense of taxpayers, not only the hundreds of thousands of HJTA members, but all the California taxpayers whose interests are rarely represented by their elected officials.

Click here to read the full article in this the OC Register

The Attorney General’s Taxpayer-Funded Political Advertising

We hate to pick on Attorney General Rob Bonta two weeks in a row, but he’s really given us no choice. Last week we chronicled his hypocrisy on data privacy by posturing as a champion on that issue while negligently allowing his Department of Justice to release sensitive information on Californians who hold carry concealed weapons permits.

What spurred today’s critique was an article in the Sacramento Bee with the headline, “Why is California’s Attorney General spending taxpayer money to send you emails?” First, a hat tip to the Sacramento Bee – typically no friend of conservatives – and its reporter Ryan Sabalow.

The article reports that two months before the June primary election, millions of California voters received an email from Bonta’s Department of Justice with the subject line, “I want to hear from you.” The message was from an official email account and said, “As Attorney General, protecting California and its people is my highest priority” and “your opinion truly matters to me.”

Those receiving the email might have wondered what it was all about. After all, it is unusual to receive an unsolicited email from a state agency unless you’ve opted in to remain informed on a particular topic.

But it’s really no mystery at all. Prior to the primary election, Bonta was serving as the appointed, but unelected, Attorney General. No doubt that his name ID wasn’t very high, and he was willing to do anything possible to elevate his profile. That’s one reason he directed his staff – shortly after his appointment – to include his smiling visage on these email solicitations to as many as 7 million voters.

The Bee article, citing several sources, accurately notes that what Bonta did was technically legal, even if ethically questionable. Indeed, the question of the extent to which elected officials or government agencies expend taxpayer dollars for political advocacy or “self-promotion” is one that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association gets a lot. In fact, our Public Integrity Project was formed precisely to monitor and to litigate when necessary illegal expenditures of public funds for illegal activity.

Fortunately, HJTA has had a string of successes in the courtroom including an action against the County of Los Angeles for producing a slick television ad advocating the passage of a sales tax to address homelessness. That action resulted in a $1.3 million fine against the county. Other successful legal actions include a suit against California’s then-Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, for spending an unauthorized $35 million contract with a politically connected public relations firm that referred to itself as “Team Biden” on its own website, ostensibly for nonpartisan “voter outreach” and public education.

The bad news is that there is a very high bar to prove illegality when it comes to public expenditures for non-election-related public relations campaigns. Rarely will an elected official or government entity be so foolish to use taxpayer funds for ads that say “Vote for Me” or “Vote for Measure X.”

But just because “outreach” communications, such as those emails sent by Bonta, may be technically legal, that doesn’t mean that they are ethically defensible. The attorney general is responsible for enforcing the law against other Californians. It looks pretty bad for him to skirt the law himself.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

California’s Budget Substance is as Bad as the Process

This column addresses budget issues frequently and, most recently, reported on how broken the budget process is. While the “budget bill” is constitutionally mandated to be enacted by June 15, it only passed by that date for one reason — so the legislators could continue to receive their paychecks.

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Moreover, since the enactment of the budget, there have been two so-called “junior budget bills” amending the fake June 15th budget and around 30 so-called “budget trailer bills” directing the spending of billions in ways that the budget bill itself did not direct.

But it isn’t just the budget process that is wholly broken, the actual substance of the bill reveals perverse spending priorities. Let’s start with the size of this gargantuan budget. One veteran political reporter, who has followed state budgets since the 1960s, remembers when the budget was $3 billion. It has grown since then by 100-fold to a staggering $300 billion.

The old saying that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, can be applied to the California state budget. There remains a legitimate question whether massive new spending programs can be sustained when, not if, we have a major recession, as more and more economists and business leaders are predicting.

For taxpayers, priority number-one in this year’s budget was the long-promised gas tax relief. This is especially important since, on Friday, California’s gas tax went up by about three cents. That might not seem like a lot, but we already had the highest gas tax in the nation. So, while other states are providing immediate gas tax relief directly at the pump, California will not.

Rather than do the right thing and suspend the gas tax for a year — a quick, simple and low-cost solution recommended by Republicans—the governor and Democrats in the legislature agreed on a $9.5 billion tax rebate program which will attempt to target refunds based not on the amount of taxes paid, but on need and family size; and not now, but just before the November election.

Another example is Assembly Bill 208 that will create a new excise tax on lithium extraction. Why? Because lithium is crucially important for battery manufacturing and there is something of a gold rush on lithium occurring in the Salton Sea. The Legislature intends to get in on the action.

The Legislature’s plan would impose a tax of $400 to $800 per metric ton of lithium extracted in California. The industry says that could discourage investment and make locally sourced lithium more expensive than imports coming from half a world away. Currently, lithium is imported from countries including China, where the lithium industry has been tied to forced labor and environmental degradation.

Meanwhile, the California Energy Commission estimates that there is enough lithium in the Salton Sea to meet America’s lithium needs and up to 40% of the world’s demand. Further, it has been reported that the Salton Sea could produce the world’s “greenest” lithium and that the lithium industry has the potential of breathing economic life back into a region that faces high rates of unemployment and suffers health impacts from the drying sea.

Disincentivizing our local lithium industry through taxation is counter to California’s climate and labor values and bad for Riverside and Imperial counties, our state, the United States, and the world.

Space limitations prevent a full airing of all the silliness to be found in the state budget, but this one caught our eye. One of the post-budget “trailer” bills revealed Gov. Newsom’s obsession with poking at pro-business states like Texas and Florida. The bill would give special consideration to businesses seeking state “Go-Biz” grants if they’re relocating jobs away from a state that limits access to abortion or “permits discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Apparently, Newsom believes businesses will be more attracted to California for its woke purity than they are repelled by its high taxes and burdensome regulations.

Click here to read the full article in the Redlands Daily Facts

Latest ‘racist’ Smear Against Prop.13

Here we go again. Another “study” purporting to reveal how unfair Proposition 13 is. But this time, the tax-hikers are using the progressives’ favorite catch-all justification: inequity and racism. Prop. 13 has been under constant assault for 42 years by people who want to raise property taxes without limitation. Like all their other arguments, this one won’t stick either.

First, let’s review a few of the many complaints leveled against Prop. 13 over the last few decades. An early one was the “nosy neighbor” argument, complaining that some new homebuyers pay more in property taxes than their neighbors. Of course, exactly like their neighbors, new buyers’ taxes are based on the price they paid for the property, and increases are capped after that.

Next there was the false charge that “Prop. 13 starves education.” Then there was bitterness that Snow White didn’t pay enough in taxes on her Disneyland castle. Now the theme is Social Justice and the Fight Against Racism.

The 47-page report from the Opportunity Institute and Pivot Learning, titled “Unjust Legacy,” wrongly asserts that Proposition 13 has contributed to inequities in schools and communities. Contrary to the authors’ contention that Proposition 13 is unfair to minorities, the nation’s highest court concluded just the opposite. In Nordlinger v. Hahn, the United States Supreme Court expressly stated that California can “legitimately … decide to structure its tax system to discourage rapid turnover in ownership of homes and businesses, for example, in order to inhibit displacement of lower income families by the forces of gentrification.”

Ironically, at the same time the “Unjust Legacy” report was being released in California, the Washington Post carried a story out of Texas with the headline “Modern ‘redlining’ is pushing some Texans out of their homes.” The Post relates the sad situation of Rebecca Flores, a 79-year-old woman in San Antonio who wants to keep her home in the family. But “she and many of her mostly Mexican American neighbors say they are being priced out of their homes due to skyrocketing property taxes and a hot housing market that has developers pressuring them to sell in the rapidly gentrifying city.”

The Post notes that rising home values, and the rising property taxes that follow, threaten to displace the longtime residents who helped give San Antonio its distinctive culture and character. “It’s a crisis facing cities across America,” the paper reports, “where housing is in short supply, affordable housing is even scarcer, and investors are sweeping into high-demand markets with big cash offers that are pricing many Americans out of the market altogether.”

Flores, the 79-year-old grandmother, is at her wits’ end. “This is how the fiber of a community is frayed,” she said. “Investors come and take over. It’s just like 1836, people with money came and changed laws, got the land and the power and they threw all the Mexicans out. Here we are in 2022, and they are doing the same thing all over again.”

The so-called “Unjust Legacy” report concludes that scholars and others “should collectively determine what it will take to overcome political and taxpayer resistance to changing Proposition 13.” This is a thoughtless assault on California property owners, who do not pay property tax bills “collectively.” They pay property taxes for the property they own, based on the price they paid, with an annual inflation adjustment that cannot exceed 2%.

Click here to read the full article in the Daily Breeze

California’s Budget Is a Scam

Once again, the California Legislature has engaged in the most meaningless exercise imaginable – passing the state budget. In other states, where progressivism is less dominant, the annual budget is an important legislative act. In California, it means squat.

If the enactment of the annual budget is so pointless, why does the legislature even bother to pass it? The answer is simple. The Constitution requires the passage of a budget bill in order for members of the Legislature to receive their paychecks.

It wasn’t always this way. But in 2010, the legislature put Proposition 25 on the ballot. Entitled the “On-Time Budget Act of 2010,” its real purpose was to repeal the requirement that the budget bill receive a two-thirds vote of both houses. Knowing that voters are rightfully suspicious of lowering any vote threshold, the legislature voters sold the proposal by saying that, if they approved Prop 25, budgets would be passed on time, with greater transparency and that legislators would forfeit their pay if the budget was late. All three of these representations were lies.

The reality is that since Prop. 25 passed, California has no budget process. The “budget bill,” which is supposed to be a comprehensive spending plan for the fiscal year reflecting the policy priorities of the state, has now morphed into an ongoing legislative process that has no beginning and no end. “Budget bills” are now being enacted nearly a year after the June 15th deadline, despite legislators being able to collect their paychecks in the meantime.

After Proposition 25 became law, dozens of bills have been designated as “budget related” even though they have nothing to do with the budget, just to take advantage of Prop. 25’s easier rules for passing bills. Many bills that would otherwise require a two-thirds vote can suddenly become an “amendment” to a budget bill, and then they can be passed with only a simple majority. There’s no requirement for a hearing in the legislative committee that has jurisdiction over that area of policy, and the public has no opportunity to submit public comments or to question their representatives about their votes for the bill.

The process is now so scripted, it makes a Kabuki dance look like improvisational theater.

Longtime political writer Dan Walters labeled the 1,000-page budget “another sham, drafted largely in secret with minimal public exposure and many blanks to be filled in later.” Even the decidedly left-of-center Sacramento Bee succinctly summarized the state of play with this headline: “California Democrats passed a fake budget so they could get paid. Taxpayers have to wait.”

Click here to read the full article in the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Can Sanity Prevail in California?

Victor Davis Hanson is a resident scholar at the Hoover Institute and lifelong Californian from the Central Valley.

He recently spoke at a conference of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association members. For the naïve who want an optimistic presentation about how great California is, VDH is not your guy. He gives an accurate, if depressing, view of the current state of the state. In both his writings and speeches, he assesses just how far California has deteriorated; from homelessness, poverty, cost of living, crime, taxes, business climate, etc., ad nauseum.

The decline of California has, as most know, led to an unprecedented exodus out of the state. So much so that for the first time in its history, California has lost representation in Congress. In addition to the 2 million people who have already left California, far more are seriously considering it. Facebook now has a group called “Life after California” with rapidly growing membership.

But most Californians are unlikely to leave, at least anytime soon.

They will stay either because they are willing to tolerate all that is wrong here, or they are not able to leave.

A Central Valley farmer isn’t going to pick up his orchard and move to Texas.

Neither is the retired couple who want to stay close to family members, including grandchildren.

But simply because tens of millions will stay in California does not mean they are oblivious to its ills.

Those deciding to stick it out here in the formerly Golden State are constantly on the lookout for some faint signs that things might get better. Last week’s primary election returns might provide such a sign, although it would be foolish to believe there has been a political sea change.

First, the good news. It now appears that voters in the most liberal city in America have had it with rising crime. Given that you can count the number of Republicans in San Francisco on two hands, the rejection of the city’s District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, certainly wasn’t a partisan fight. San Franciscans of all political stripes simply felt unsafe on city streets as tens of thousands had their cars or homes broken into. It doesn’t take a conservative to want serious criminal acts to result in serious criminal penalties, including incarceration.

As in San Francisco, crime and homelessness are top issues.

Throughout California, even within Democrat-on-Democrat races, the more moderate candidates seemed to be outperforming their more progressive counterparts, although many races remain too close to call.

Whether California’s election results represent a meaningful shift away from radical progressivism or merely a blip in the relentless leftward movement in California is the subject of a national debate. Even the New York Times wrote that the recall of Boudin was “a stark warning to the Democratic Party.”

Legislature Says Transparency for Thee, but Not For Me

Examples of hypocrisy and double standards in California politics are too numerous to count. But some stand out more than others.

Two bills, both designated as “job killers” by the California Chamber of Commerce, would require companies to hand over to the government more data about pay and internal practices. Under AB 2095 (Kalra; D-San Jose), employers would have to file detailed annual reports of wage and hour data and employee benefits on their entire United States workforce. AB 1162 (Limon; D-Goleta) would incentivize frivolous litigation against employers by private attorneys based on the publication of broad, immaterial data collected by the state.

Fortunately, both burdensome proposals are currently stalled in the Legislature, and we can hope they eventually die.

But the mere fact that they, and other rules related to disclosure imposed on the private sector, made it this far got us thinking about how the ruling party in California is all for transparency for others, but not themselves.

One area of complaint in the Legislature is the continued practice of sweeping harassment cases under the rug, or slow-walking them. Recent articles in both the San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee have attempted to uncover the process employed by the Legislature in response to “Me Too” complaints. But it appears that a specially created “Workplace Conduct Unit” has been less than forthcoming about how it processes – or doesn’t process – complaints of harassment.

Another example of hypocrisy is progressive encouragement of unionization in both the private sector and public sectors. In fact, a recent bill, SB 931 (Leyva) would impose civil penalties on public employers for deterring or discouraging public employees from becoming members of an employee organization. And yet, at the same time, the legislature failed to pass a bill, AB 314 (Gonzalez), that would have permitted the Legislature’s own staff members to form a union. Granted, AB 314 was a bad bill for many reasons, but its defeat exposes the hypocrisy of legislative leaders.

Lack of transparency has, regrettably, become part of the DNA in Sacramento politics. Take the budget. While Gov. Newsom recently announced how he would like to spend the state’s $95.7 billion windfall of other people’s money, the actual budget will be negotiated by him and the two Democratic legislative leaders behind closed doors. Republicans, the media, and the public are shut out of providing any input, or even comment.

Worse yet is the increasingly prolific use of “trailer bills” in the budget process. These legislative devices often start out as blank legislation with literally no content at all. But when the governor or legislators want to pay off political favors for special interests or their own members, they quickly “amend” the blank trailer bills to add the deals, a tactic that conceals the content of the bills from the public until it’s too late. This ploy was used twice to change the law relating to recall elections, both of which benefited the ruling party.

The only law on the books to counter anti-disclosure hypocrisy is the California Legislature Transparency Act (CLTA), which requires that every bill be in print and posted online for at least 72 hours before its final vote in either house of the Legislature. This helps to reduce – but not eliminate – the use of last-minute “gut-and-amend” tactics. The CLTA also requires that all open legislative meetings be video recorded and posted on the internet within 24 hours.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register