ACA 1 By Jeffries Would Have Required Bill Text be Published 24 Hours Before Votes
SACRAMENTO: With little discussion, no questions, and no opportunity even to respond to false claims by the committee chair, Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries’ (R-Lake Elsinore) ACA 1 government transparency bill was killed in the Assembly Rules Committee on a straight party-line vote.
Frustrated by the legislative leadership’s unwillingness to allow legislators, the media, and the public the opportunity to read the text of legislation until hours or even minutes before they are voted upon, Kevin Jeffries has continually introduced legislation to require all legislation be publicly available at least 24 hours before they can come to a vote. Yesterday’s hearing on ACA 1 was the first time one of these bills has received a hearing, after years of trying.
“It is an insult to democracy that the legislature refuses to obey the same basic rules of openness and public participation that they force on local governments with the Brown Act,” said Jeffries. “We require cities, counties and special districts to follow these rules, but the leadership of the legislature insists on the right to force votes on bills that have not been reviewed or publicly available, often in the dark of night. The ‘public’s right to know’ has clearly been replaced with the ‘government knows best,’ and that is one of the many reasons that the legislature is held in such incredibly low esteem by the voters in California.”
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), the Chair of the Rules Committee, insisted in her brief remarks that existing protections and rules are sufficient, and that ACA 1 was unnecessary, and then called the vote without even giving Jeffries the opportunity to respond to her claims.
“It is ironic that the Chair of the Committee hails from the home of the free speech movement in California, but did not wish to have an actual dialogue about this important issue, and seems intent on keeping the public in the dark on issues that affect them,” said Jeffries. “It is clear that she was forced into holding this hearing by negative public and media pressure in favor of my bill, but was only willing to give it the most cursory review before killing it. I’m not sure when government transparency and the people’s right to know became a partisan issue, but it is very unfortunate for all Californians, regardless of party registration.”
ACA 1 had been endorsed by a variety of local governments, newspapers from around the state, and non-partisan organizations, including California League of Cities, California Common Cause, The First Amendment Coalition, and several Chambers of Commerce. It had received no official opposition, and there was no public analysis of the bill prepared by the Rules Committee.
“Clearly the legislative leadership has no interest in reforming itself, and if change is going to come, it will have to be through the initiative process. I am hopeful that one of the reform organizations contemplating initiative efforts, will include the 24 hour rule, as well as my other reform measure (ACA 2) that would prohibit midnight sessions out of the view of the public.”