Vote Delay would Thwart Bad Deals

Jon Fleischman
Publisher of the FlashReport

A Viewpoints article from political consultant Steve Maviglio (“Vote delay sounds good – but isn’t”; Viewpoints, Feb. 2) blasted a bipartisan proposal to require that legislative bills be in print for 72 hours before they can be voted on by lawmakers.

This legislation, co-authored by Democratic Sens. Lois Wolk and Lou Correa and Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, is a much-needed reform to a legislative process that is abused repeatedly. Sadly, it is often the case that legislators are asked to vote in the wee hours on deals that have been written on a piece of paper and have not even been put into proper legal form, let alone even disseminated to those about to vote.

There are three key reasons why this is a needed reform. The first is to make sure legislators are able to read, analyze and seek input on legislation before they vote on it. The second reason is the public deserves to be able to know what is being voted on by their elected officials in time to be able to express their views on legislation prior to a vote. Finally, through both of the processes above, if there are unforeseen policy issues or even drafting errors, those can be dealt with before a bill is voted on, not through “cleanup” legislation to follow.

It is worth pointing out that with members of a single political party now commanding a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers, and controlling the Governor’s Office, the potential for abuse is at an all-time high, with legislative deals being struck behind closed doors in partisan meetings. This potential for abuse would exist regardless of which party had the large majorities and the governorship.

Maviglio, a former deputy chief of staff to multiple Assembly speakers, argues that legislators don’t need more time because they read staff summaries, not the actual bills (how a staffer summarizes a bill not yet in print is beyond me), and that a 72-hour delay would allow special interests to dominate the process (actually, under the current system it is the special interests, not the public, who run the table).

Seventy-two hours may not seem like a lot of time – but thanks to advances in technology, this is more than enough time for bill language to find its way to the eyes of the public. And of course there are many bad deals that will never happen if it has to be published in final form well before a vote.

Crossposted on Sacramento Bee and FlashReport

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