SACRAMENTO (AP) — The California Assembly is being accused of violating a transparency law by voting on 95 bills without making them public three days in advance.
The Assembly, rushing to make a Friday deadline to pass legislation out of that house, breached a constitutional amendment passed by voters last fall, said Sam Blakeslee, a former state Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored Proposition 54.
Ninety-five bills were amended fewer than three days earlier, the Sacramento Bee reported. One measure would repeal a law making it a crime to use fake documents to conceal citizenship status. Another would prohibit the state from contracting with private prisons out of state.
Proposition 54 states that except in emergency cases, a bill with any amendments must be published online “in its final form” at least 72 hours before a vote or it cannot be passed.
However, the measure doesn’t define “final form.”
The Assembly defines it as a bill that has been voted on in the Assembly and has gone to the Senate for final passage.
“Assembly bills will not be in final form until they are presented on the floor of the Senate,” Assembly Chief Clerk E. Dotson Wilson said in a statement. ” ‘Final form’ is the version of the bill that is voted on by both houses of the Legislature before the bill is sent to the governor, therefore it does not apply to bills still in the house of origin.”
The Senate Pro Tem’s Office agreed on that view, but it still waited at least 72 hours to vote after amending bills it took up in the past week, the Bee reported.
Blakeslee noted the difference.
“Why is the Assembly working so hard to deprive the public of this 72-hour notice when the Senate is taking the exact opposite approach and embracing the transparency the public demanded?” he said.
Assembly measures that were passed without the 72-hour advance publication could be invalidated if they become law, he argued.
He also said that proponents of Proposition 54 were reviewing legal options.
“We are prepared to go to court,” Blakeslee said. “Having said that, we want to be sure that we approach this challenge thoughtfully and at the right time.”