The key provision of Proposition 54, a constitutional amendment voters passed by a two-to-one margin last November, is about to be tested in the legislature with ramifications that may present a roadblock for the state’s budget.

Proposition 54 was designed to bring transparency to state lawmaking. The first item identified by the Attorney General’s Title and Summary of the initiative measure was that the legislature was prohibited from passing any bill unless it has been in print and published on the Internet for at least 72 hours before the vote.

The Assembly appears ready to challenge how the 72-hour rule is interpreted.

The Speaker’s calendar calls for amending measures on the Assembly Floor by May 31 before a final vote may be taken on the bills June 2, when bills have to be moved out of their house of origin. However, that span of time between final amendments and floor vote is only 48 hours, short of the 72 hour constitutional mandate.

The Assembly believes its process is not violating the constitution. Legislative leaders in the majority point to the text of Prop 54 that refers to a bill’s “in final form.” They say this refers to a bill when it leaves the legislature on its way to the governor, not when a bill is voted out of its house of origin.

Not so says former state senator and Proposition 54 co-proponent Sam Blakeslee. “We have pointed out due to the context where the term is used that it refers to the house in which the bill is being deliberated.   This is also how “in final form” language has been interpreted for the Political Reform Act, which has been operative for many decades. “

Blakeslee said that this issue was highlighted during the campaign for Proposition 54, which would supply legislative intent to a court determining what the constitution means in referring to a bill’s “in final form.”

Are the proponents prepared to sue if the 72 hour law is not followed?

Blakeslee said that his Prop 54 co-proponent, Charles Munger, Jr., told a legislative committee if there is a violation of the law he is prepared to go to court.

A court challenge could have great consequences for the state budget if recent budget maneuvers are carried out ignoring the Proposition 54 constitutional mandates.

Since Proposition 25 lowered the required vote to pass the budget to a simple majority vote the budget has passed on time but is followed by trailer budget bills often containing major policies.

Historically, legislators have ignored rules about how long bills shall be in print for review brushing aside the rule with a simple majority vote. That cannot be done now that the 72-hour review time between publication of the bill and the vote is part of the state constitution.

If Proposition 54 is ignored on budget bills, Blakeslee said, “Imagine what would happen if California passed spending bills ignoring the constitutional mandates. The spending statutes would be void” (if courts sided with the proponents in a lawsuit.)

Blakeslee said Prop 54 proponents would be watching how the assembly deals with bills in the coming week. The attorneys are on speed-dial.