The California Legislature appears to dislike transparency… as well as the public being able to lobby the body directly.
Senate Pro Tem President Toni Atkins and Senate leadership is preparing to suspend the Constitution (specifically Article IV, Section 8 (a)) to allow bills to be amended and heard in committee before the 30-day-in-print rule.
This means a bill introduced today can be heard in a committee as soon as it’s been print 72 hours.
They’ve already limited the public’s access to the legislative process because of the COVID lockdowns, and now they want to limit the public’s right to mobilize against legislation.
The Globe was informed that Senate Republican leader Scott Wilk has signed off on this as the email below confirms, but several members in the Republican Caucus are not happy.
Kimberly Rodriguez, Policy Director for Senator Toni G. Atkins, President pro Tempore, sent this email throughout the Senate Wednesday to Senators’ offices:
Good afternoon: I wanted to inform you of a discussion related to hearing and amending bills. President pro Tempore Atkins and Republican Leader Wilk spoke and agreed to suspend the 30 day in print rule for 2021, which will allow bills to be amended and heard prior to the 30 day waiting period. We pursued this suspension to avoid the “traffic jam” of bills being heard at the end of the policy deadline period.
A vote of the Senate to suspend the Constitution and the Joint Rules is required and it is a higher vote threshold – 30 votes. We plan to take this vote at Senate Floor Session on Monday, February 22, 2021.
What “traffic jam” could there possibly be for a Legislature faced with dire economic circumstances after a one-year lockdown of the state?
This apparent power grab to keep the people from seeing how the Legislature is wasting time – and $30 billion of fraudulent claims from the EDD, dumping a $10 billion “economic relief package” on taxpayers, as well as ignoring the millions of Californians currently on unemployment, and millions more small businesses shuttered, is dubious.
It is notable that the California legislative leaders allowed Gov. Gavin Newsom to run roughshod over their Constitutional authority last year, under his ongoing emergency orders, with nary a gripe. They never pushed back, but now it is apparent they desire some of that undemocratic power.
California is one year into the “emergency” and Gov. Newsom’s terminal lockdowns, and the Legislature appears to be trying to hide the ball from the people, the taxpayers, the voters.
The Legislature’s leaders have kept the people out of the Capitol building for a year, preventing the public from evaluating what the Legislature has planned, if anything, to get the stagnant economy roaring again – or what they will burden the taxpayers with as many new proposed bills are tax increases.
Remember, in January, the gallery in the California State Senate was closed to the public disallowing the standard and customary public review. The gallery is the seating area above the Senate chambers where visitors can sit and observe the Senate debate and vote on legislation. Members of the public and the Third House like to observe the Senate while it is in session. But they were told to leave and locked out.
Gov. Newsom ordered 1,000 California National Guard troops to help protect the Capitol Building and “critical state infrastructure” in preparation for “armed protests” that never took place during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
This State Capitol is the People’s house. However, during 2020 it didn’t feel much like the people’s house with moms protesting the school and business closures getting arrested by Capitol police.
In Capitol circles it is said that legislative leaders like it this way. They like empty committee hearing rooms. They like empty Senate and Assembly galleries, and they really like not having to deal with members of the public, media or even lobbyists.
This latest move to suspend the Constitution only exacerbates that.
Why break the rules when one party controls everything in California? This is a “be careful what you wish” for moment.