02/16/2016 by Ed Coghlan

CA Fwd: Say Yes to Legislative Transparency


California State Senate chamber (Photo Credit: Ben Franske/Wikimedia)

California Forward has been in existence for nearly a decade and during that time we’ve talked with people around the state about how to improve and reform our state government.

There have been a number of good ideas that have been expressed, but few of them have more support than what is called the 72-hour in print rule.

That is why CA Fwd is announcing its support of an effort to place the California Legislature Transparency Act on the November ballot.

The act would require that all legislative measures to be publicly posted online at least 72 hours before the final vote, require that all legislative hearings be video recorded and available online, and guarantee the rights of every individual to record and share recordings of public legislative meetings.

“We have long promoted this idea because it reduces the ability of the special interests from having their way with the legislators at the last minute,” said Jim Mayer, who has headed CA Fwd since it was founded in 2007. “Giving legislators, their staffs and the public time to review last-minute changes in legislation is a common-sense practice that will improve governance in California.”

Proponents of the ballot measure will continue to collect signatures, while building a diverse coalition of supporters for reining in special interests’ influence over the legislative process and improving the public’s ability to know what’s happening behind closed doors at the State Capitol.

“Every time we’ve promoted this idea over the past decade, the public thought it was an easy rule to implement and meaningful in its application,” added Mayer. “It is consistent with what we know will work.”

“Anything that strengthens the independence of the lawmakers and reduces the influence of the special interest groups should and will have wide, popular support,” Mayer concluded.

In 2014, CA Fwd released its Path Toward Trust, which included the 72-hour in print provision. In an online exchange of ideas in which 900 CA Fwd supporters participated, 82 percent said they strongly agreed and another 11 percent somewhat agreed it was a good idea.

As CA Fwd wrote at the time:

“Few practices undermine transparency and accountability among those serving in Sacramento than gutting a bill mere hours before the end of a legislative session and amending it with something far different than what was under public review prior. A whopping 93 percent of participants agreed.”

Democratic State Senator Lois Wolk has long promoted the idea: “Establishing a strong 72-hour in print rule is a rare opportunity for both parties to join together in making a common sense reform in favor of good government and the public interest. I am encouraged but not surprised by the strong public support for this simple rule to increase transparency and reduce the opportunity for the mischief that can occur when major legislative changes are rushed through in secret without the opportunity for all legislators and the public to read and thoughtfully consider legislation before voting.”

CA Fwd has been a strong advocate for citizens redistricting, the top-two primary and term limit reform, and believes these reforms have reduced partisan gridlock and encouraged bipartisan compromises.

For democracies to work, elected leaders need to be responsive and representative, and voters must be able to hold elected officials accountable for results. The 72-hour rule is another good idea toward reaching that goal.

The Hold Politicians Accountable Committee is leading this effort and CA Fwd is proud to lend its support. If you want to join the effort or learn more about it, visit the coalition's website or send email to Info@HoldPoliticiansAccountable.org.

Categories: Democracy, Governance Reform, Accountability, Transparency

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