Prop. 54 Facts
California’s Proposition 54 is a state ballot initiative to rein in the power of the special interests and give everyday voters more access to the legislative process.
Special interests have too much influence in the Legislature
Special interests at the State Capitol routinely make last-minute changes to legislation to push through political favors without public comment or discussion. Hundreds of pages of legislation are drafted behind closed doors, dropped onto lawmakers’ desks, and put to an immediate vote before anyone can read it. This creates reckless legislation benefiting a few special interests at the expense of voters. Read more about strong armed robbery here.
Also, although the State Constitution says legislative meetings are supposed to be open to the public, few people are able to attend those meetings in person. Many proceedings go completely unobserved by the public and press, often leaving no record of what was said. These off-the-record meetings only benefit the lobbyists paid to strike backroom deals while the public interest is cut out of the process.
This initiative would give power back to the voters
Proposition 54 would restore legislative transparency and level the playing field for the average voter to hold politicians accountable – by doing three things:
- Each bill must be in print and posted online for at least 72 hours before it may pass out of either house
This 72-hour notice period would give legislators time to review the legislation, hear from their constituents, and be held accountable for the votes they ultimately cast.
The initiative would prohibit any bill from being passed by either house of the Legislature until it has been posted online for at least 72 hours. The bill must be posted in its final form before being voted on by either house, so that all amendments to the bill are made public for at least 72 hours before any floor vote.
This would end the practice of special interests sneaking new legislation through the process without public comment or review. And by bringing new legislation out into the light of day, this initiative would deter political favoritism and allow a responsible evaluation of new policies before they become law.
Prop. 54 would even specify that, if either house breaks the 72-hour rule by passing a bill without 72 hours’ notice, then the bill cannot become a statute.
Prop. 54 allows exceptions to the notice period for cases of emergency when legislation is needed immediately.
- Requires the Legislature to post online a video record of every legislative meeting that is supposed to be open to the public
The initiative would require the Legislature to post a complete video record of each meeting within 24 hours of the meeting’s adjournment, allowing citizens to watch legislative meetings and keep informed. The videos would be kept online, freely available for public viewing, for at least 20 years. This would become a valuable resource for the public, the press, and the academic community.
Hundreds of local governments already do this. So why can’t the State Legislature?
Any costs of making or keeping these videos would have zero impact on taxpayers or services. Any costs of the videos would be absorbed by the Legislature’s existing budget. And these costs would be minor, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, comprising less than one-percent of the Legislature’s existing budget. Plus the Legislature’s budget is projected to grow independently next year by enough to easily absorb the costs of this initiative without compromising the level of resources currently available to lawmakers.
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- Allows all individuals to create and share their own recordings of legislative proceedings
In addition to creating an official video record, this initiative would guarantee the right of all individuals to freely make their own recordings of any legislative meeting that is supposed to be open to the public, and share the video with any members of the public who are interested.
This has been allowed in meetings of city councils and other local boards for years – So why can’t the State Legislature catch up?
This initiative would liberate the potential of basic modern technology to hold the Legislature accountable for its actions (and its required recording of those actions) and give all citizens the tools they need to be informed and participate in the political process.
By enacting these commonsense reforms, Proposition 54 would ensure legislative proceedings are conducted fairly and openly, and enable the public to observe and share what is happening in the Legislature so citizens may more fully participate in the political process.