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Jon Coupal

The relentless battle for legislative transparency

Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

For decades, it has been nearly impossible for ordinary citizens to pierce the veil of legislative secrecy in our state capital.

Of course, California is not unique — legislative bodies have sought to conceal their activity for millennia. This is inherent in the differences between rulers and subjects. But we all know too well that mischief feeds on secrecy. The Roman poet Virgil wrote more than 2,000 years ago, “Evil is nourished and grows by concealment.”

In California, the citizens have tried repeatedly to force legislative activity into the sunlight. So last year, to counter the common practice in the Legislature of introducing new bills and passing them within hours, often in the dead of night, voters approved Proposition 54. That important reform requires legislation be in print and available for public review for at least three days prior to final passage.

Passed as a constitutional amendment, Proposition 54 is not stated in discretionary language — its provisions are mandatory. And complying with its terms hardly places an onerous burden on lawmakers. Honestly crafted legislation should easily withstand a few days of public scrutiny.

The state Senate has complied with the will of the people, and even if some of the legislation this body has passed, like the gas tax increase, is repellent to many Californians, senators cannot be accused of keeping their lawmaking a secret.

Read the entire piece published here.