Dan Walters: “SB 859 is a poster child” for Prop. 54 Approval

September 19, 2016 – Dan Walters describes the last minute amendments made to SB 859, a budget trailer bill that was approved by the legislature earlier in the Legislative session but was amended at the last minute on August 31, the last day of the biennial session, to make changes to unrelated public policy matters, and passed without a clear explanation of the amendments at the time of the final vote.

SB 859 is a good example of the types of last-minute changes to legislation that Prop 54 aims to address.  But it’s important to note that Prop 54 does not favor any single political persuasion or issue.  Last minute gut and amends are equal opportunity offenders that negatively impact people and groups from all walks of life.

Proposition 54 will require all legislation to be in print and publicly posted online in its final form at least 72 hours before it may pass out of either house of the State Legislature   — giving the public and legislators time to read the bill before it is voted upon

Below are excerpts from the article, “Sneakiness abounded on last, hectic night of California Legislature’s session”:

“The last night of the Legislature’s biennial session on Aug. 31 was, as usual, a hectic free-for-all.

Although full-time lawmakers had been in session for 21 months, dozens – and perhaps hundreds – of bills still needed final votes.

Senate Bill 859 exemplifies what’s wrong with what happened that night – and with the Legislature’s penchant for concealing what it does from the public.

Ostensibly, SB 859 was a “trailer bill” connected to the 2016-17 budget that had been approved six weeks earlier.

However, it’s become common – and shoddy – practice for the Legislature to use such trailer bills to make important changes in public policy that have little or nothing to do with the budget, bypassing the usual legislative process.

And it’s also common for such trailer bills to be drafted via the equally shoddy “gut-and-amend” practice, in which the contents of an existing measure are stripped out and entirely new provisions inserted.

Finally, SB 859 and other sneaky vehicles – dubbed “mushroom bills” because they sprout in the dead of night – are often revealed just before they are brought up for votes.

Mostly, SB 859 contained provisions of a post-budget agreement between Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators on spending $900 million in proceeds of the state’s “cap-and-trade” auctions of carbon emission allowances.

Just before passage on the final night, however, someone inserted an extra paragraph unrelated to carbon emissions, declaring “a trustee of public trust lands shall have the right to bring any action related to its granted public trust lands, including an action to abate a public nuisance, as a representative of the beneficiaries.”

Only a very few people in the Capitol that night knew what that section meant, and the legislators who voted on it soon after its insertion were given just nine words in their staff-written analyses: “Clarifies the role of a trustee of public lands.”

… it should be done with a separate bill, committee hearings and the rest of the usual legislative process, not sneaked through in the final hours of a session.

Fortunately, voters can impose a partial remedy for the Legislature’s procedural malpractice.

Proposition 54 would require bills to be in final form 72 hours before voting, and SB 859 is a poster child for its approval.”

Read the entire article on the Sacramento Bee website: http://tinyurl.com/jeacqo2.

To learn more about Proposition 54 or to join the coalition, visit the website at www.YesProp54.org.