Proposition 54: Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings.


The Question: 

Should all bills before the Legislature be printed in their final form and posted online 72 hours before being voted on, and should all public meetings of the Legislature be videotaped and posted online within 24 hours?

The Situation: 

Legislative rules govern the process by which bills become laws. Legislators discuss bills in committee hearings and other meetings and make changes to bills based on these discussions, a process that usually takes place over days, weeks, or months. However, bills can also be drastically changed at the last minute, including adding hundreds of pages of new text. In a procedure known as “gut and amend,” every word of a bill may be replaced at the last minute with new language, which can even be on a totally different subject. When this happens, the public cannot read the bill in its entirety before it is passed into law, and many legislators cannot read the bill in its final form before voting on it. Additionally, recordings of the Legislature’s public proceedings are not always made, so meetings and discussions about a bill can take place unobserved by the public or the press, without any record of what was said.

The Proposal: 

The California Constitution and legislative rules would be amended to:

  • Require that every bill in its final form be made available to legislators and published on the Internet at least 72 hours before the vote, except in cases of emergency.                                                          
  • Require the Legislature to make audiovisual recordings of all its public meetings, and ensure that these recordings are available on the Internet for viewing within 24 hours.                                                             
  • Allow anyone to record public legislative meetings.                                                               
  • Allow recordings of public legislative meetings to be used for any legitimate purpose.
Fiscal Effect: 

Likely one-time costs of $1 million to $2 million to buy cameras and other equipment, and annual costs of about $1 million for more staff and online storage for the videos. These costs would be less than one percent of the Legislature’s budget for its own operations.

What a YES or NO Vote Means
A YES Vote Means: 

Any bill (including changes to the bill) would have to be made available to legislators and posted on the Internet for at least 72 hours before the Legislature could pass it. The Legislature would have to ensure that its public meetings are recorded and make videos of those meetings available on the Internet.

A NO Vote Means: 

Rules and duties of the Legislature would not change.

Support & Opposition
Supporters Say: 

Proposition 54 will:

  • give the public and their elected officials time to read and express their opinions on legislation before it is enacted into law.                                                     
  • put an end to the practice of “gut and amend.”                                                             
  • ensure that all open meetings of the Legislature are recorded, and posted online so the public can view them.
Opponents Say: 

Proposition 54 will:

  • introduce unnecessary, burdensome and time-consuming restrictions on the way laws are written.                                                            
  • make small technical but needed changes in bills introduced at the end of Legislative sessions more difficult to accommodate.                           
  • give lobbyists and special interests extra time to lobby and launch campaigns to attack hard-fought bipartisan compromises.