California’s long history of political reform is one very substantial argument for how reforms produce unintended consequences, often the very opposite of what reformers said they wanted.

Prop 54 is well on its way to becoming another example of this phenomenon.

The centerpiece of Prop 54, approved by voters last year and backed by all right-thinking (just ask them) good government types in California, was a rule mandating transparency through a 72-hour rule. Bills would have to be in print for 72 hours before a final vote; the theory was that this would bring transparency and end the Capitol tradition of backroom deals that inserted late provisions into major legislation.

But in practice, the 72-hour rule is likely to have the opposite effect.

During the final days of the legislative package to raise some taxes to fund transportation projects, the 72-hour rule had a very different purpose. It created more time – indeed a set period – for more backroom deals.

The 72-hour period, rather than providing the check of transparency, actually functioned like a feeding period. It was the moment for lobbyists and others to apply pressure to legislators. And in turn, it made the vote tougher for lawmakers, and thus created a time period for them to make more demands of the governor and legislative leaders, and cut backroom deals.

In the end, those 72 hours helped add some $1 billion in extra deals to the cost of the project.

The right response to such evidence should be retreat. But California’s never retreat. Like gamblers who keep losing at the tables, they prefer to double down.

And that’s how we’ve constructed a governing system full of reforms, advanced by reformers, that is broadly dysfunctional and widely seen as corrupt.