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Measure to Increase Legislative Transparency Sent to Suspense File

May 2, 2013
City officials have heard much from the Legislature in recent years about the need to increase transparency at the local level and have made enormous strides. Yet when it comes to a measure that would ensure that bills be in print for at least three days prior to a final vote legislators feel different about transparency.
The fate of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 (Olsen) was announced in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 6 hearing on Tuesday by the committee’s chair, Assembly Member Bob Blumenfield even before it was presented. The transparency measure was sent to the committee’s suspense file after the testimony and will likely remain there. The committee analysis contains many critical arguments against the transparency measure in the committee analysis. The analysis is available on the League website.

ACA 4, supported by the League, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and other groups, is identical to Senate Constitutional Amendment 10 (Wolk), which has yet to be heard in the Senate. These measures would enhance legislative transparency by requiring a bill to be in print and available online for at least 72 hours prior to a vote on its final passage in either house of the Legislature.  
Government Transparency is critical to a functioning democracy. Cities, pursuant to laws like the Brown Act and local policies, hold open council meetings, publish agendas in advance, invite public comment and televise proceedings.
The California Constitution includes various provisions that promote the transparency of legislative affairs. The proceedings of each house of the Legislature and its committees are required to be “open and public,” and newly introduced legislation must be in print for a minimum of 30 days prior to the Legislature taking action. These are positives and promote public access. But there are also obvious gaps.
Unfortunately it is common at the end of legislative sessions or in conjunction with the adoption of a budget that measures are hastily drafted, often late at night, and rushed to a final vote without any opportunity for public review, input or communication with legislators. This type of action undermines representative government, diminishes public confidence in the Legislature and creates the perception of favors being granted to special interests.

It disappointing that ACA 4 was shelved. Given California’s size, the diversity of its population and the potential of legislation to have widespread impact, such transparency is essential for the proper functioning of representative government.
It remains to be seen if SCA 10 will experience a similar fate. The League’s support letter for this measure and a sample letter for cities is available on the League website at www.cacities.org/billsearch by typing "SCA 10" into the search function.

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