New push for more public review of state legislation

6:04 PM, Jan 22, 2013   |    comments
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Reopening a debate that stalled with the defeat of a November ballot initiative, a bipartisan duo of legislators wants an amendment to the state constitution requiring almost all bills to be in print for at least three days before any final vote.

That would put an end to the often used practice of drafting and enacting bills in a matter of hours, giving neither the public or all legislators a chance to review the proposed law.

"Last-minute changes to bills can leave legislators unsure of what they are voting on, and prevent the public from weighing in on proposals," said state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, in a statement announcing the proposal.

Wolk is joined in the proposed constitutional amendment by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto.  A bipartisan group of co-sponsors also are endorsing the amendment, which would have to be ratified by voters in 2014.

The idea of a 72-hour "in print" rule isn't new.  In fact, it was one of several governance changes included in last fall's Proposition 31.  But the measure, which was both complex and not backed by a well-funded political campaign, was resoundingly rejected by voters.

The legislation will likely face some skepticism in the state Capitol community, where many argue that political deals can be so tenuous that quick legislative action on brand new deal points is the only way to sometimes get the hard things done.

Supporters, though, say such political maneuvering erodes the public's trust in elected officials.

"No matter what one's ideology is, I would hope we can all agree that greater transparency should be the goal," said Assemblywoman Olsen in a statement.


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