ELECTION BRIEFS: Prop 54 - Legislature transparency | KALW

ELECTION BRIEFS: Prop 54 - Legislature transparency

Nov 2, 2016

Proposition 54 is about making California’s legislative process more transparent.

Right now, when state lawmakers craft new legislation, they spend days or even weeks ironing out the details of a bill. And yet sometimes, right before the vote, drastic last minute changes get pushed through that make the bill very different from how it started. 

The result is that lawmakers can find themselves voting on a bill they haven’t had time to read. And currently only about half of public hearings about legislation are recorded and posted online.

Prop 54 would require every bill that comes through the state legislature to be published online in its final form and distributed to lawmakers at least 72 hours before the vote. It would also require all public legislative meetings about a bill to be video recorded and published online within 24 hours.

What about the costs? None of it would fall on the taxpayers. Instead the cost will come from the Legislature, adding up to less than one percent of their total budget.

Prop 54 was launched by Charles Munger, a wealthy Palo Alto physicist who’s bankrolled many initiatives for California’s Republican Party. He says Prop 54 is a nonpartisan way to make the legislative process more transparent and lawmakers more accountable, and that it will limit the influence of special interest groups. He has pointed out that many counties across California have already implemented similar rules.

Right now, Munger is the only person funding Prop 54—he has raised more than $10 million for it—but other groups have thrown their support behind it too, including the League of Women Voters of California, the California State Conference of the NAACP, several Chambers of Commerce, and major city newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Times, Mercury News, and LA Times.

Opponents of Prop 54 include the California Democratic Party, the California Labor Federation, and Californians for an Effective Legislature. They say it will create unnecessary and time-consuming restrictions on the way laws are written and that it will give special interest groups extra time to undo hard fought, bipartisan compromises. No money has been raised in opposition to Prop 54 yet.

So, if you want more transparency into what lawmakers are voting on, vote "yes" on prop 54. If you’re okay with them handling it the way they do right now, vote "no."

Citizen respondents to KALW's elections call-out contributed to this post. Our call-outs are part of our community reporting project.