One of the most straight forward yet impactful measures on this November's ballot is Proposition 54, the California Legislature Transparency Act.
It’s been said that a basic tenet of a healthy democracy is open dialog and transparency. Allowing transparency in government is vital to the public trust. Secrecy breeds desperation and concern, that is why this proposition is so important.
If approved, Prop. 54 will stop an egregious and far too common practice from happening in the state Legislature. Without this law state legislators and special interest can continue to replace the entire contents of a proposed law with new language and then ram it through at the last minute (literally at times) for passage before most legislators or the public have a chance to even read a bill. This happens regularly every year. They call it "gut and amend" bills.
This lack of transparency at our state capitol should stop. We, the people, have every right to know what's in a bill before it's signed into law. And legislators should know what they’re voting on before casting their votes. These last minute, back-door maneuvers far too often create policies that only serve a select few special interests at the expense of families, businesses, and communities.
This is not the way our state legislative process was designed to operate, and it’s the voters who end up paying the price for the lack of accountability of their elected leaders. Fortunately, we will have a chance to solve this problem by voting on Proposition 54. The measure will create more transparency in the state Legislature by making three simple changes to California's Constitution:
■ Require all proposed laws to be distributed to all legislators and posted online at least 72 hours before a final vote by either house.
■ Require the legislature to post online within 24 hours a video recording of every legislative meeting that is supposed to be open to the public.
■ Allow all individuals to create and share their own recordings of legislative proceedings without fear of criminal consequences.
I am constantly amazed that this is not currently the law. These are simple and effective ways to help the culture of openness and good government to work. If we want the legislature to operate fairly and open, I strongly encourage voters to read about Prop 54 .
All legislative hearings will be available for viewing online (not just the ones the legislators wants you to see) and everyone would be able to follow a bill throughout the entire process. Nothing should be hidden from the citizens who vote to elect their representatives.
No longer will proposed laws be rushed through the Legislature without the ability for the public to know what is going on and weigh in on policy that impacts our livelihoods.
Secrecy is an enabling force to abuse of power and transparency is one of the answers in providing greater accountability. The currency of true leadership is an open government and trust in the process of transparency and that is something that Proposition 54 addresses.
The large bipartisan coalition of supporters includes the League of Women Voters of California, California Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business of California, the Latin Business Association, Hispanic 100, California State Conference of the NAACP, the First Amendment Coalition, Orange County Business Council, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, among many others.
The only opposition I can imagine would only be from special interest or legislators that like to keep their own special agendas private. Accountability and transparency is vital for our state. I will be demanding more transparency in our State Legislature because I will be voting Yes on Prop 54. There is more information on the web site YesProp54.org.
Mario A. Guerra is a former mayor of Downey, past president of Independent Cities Association and current treasurer of the California Republican Party. He can be reach at www.marioaguerra.com