Prop 54: Why California Voters Should Endorse Transparency
There are many important and often talked about propositions on the ballot this year. Some of the bigger ones this year are Prop 57, which would release “non-violent” felons early from jail, Prop 66, which seeks to reform the death penalty in California, and Prop 64, which seeks to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.
However, there are some more underrated propositions that don’t get much media attention, but play a very important role in changing the way the state is run. One of those propositions is Proposition 54. Proposition 54 seeks to prohibit the passage of any bill until it is in print and online for 72 hours prior to a vote.
The logic behind this proposal is that by publicly posting bills before a vote, people are more aware of what their representatives are voting for, and there would no longer be secret backroom deals that pass through the legislature without public awareness. Detractors of Prop 54 say the proposition is unnecessary, and they cite transparency measures already in place while claiming that the proposition is costly both in dollars ($1 million yearly to record meetings) and in time, since the waiting period would lead to less bills being passed.
Both sides are similar in terms of how they are funded, in that they’re mostly funded by a single entity. Charles Munger Jr. is the leading funder of Prop 54, putting forth over $10 million in support of the measure, whereas the California Democratic Party is the leading the opposition funding, spending about $27,000 against the proposal.
The most notable endorsers of Prop 54 include the California Republican Party, Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego, the California Chamber of Commerce, Ling Ling Chang, Catharine Baker and Gavin Newsom. Additionally, the LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle endorsed the measure. In contrast, the California Democratic Party endorsed a vote against this measure, as did the California Federation of Teachers.
While there is a small cost associated with recording meetings and posting the final text of each law online for review, I believe this proposal is necessary to the good governance of this state. With only 80 Assembly Members and 40 Senators representing almost 40 million people in Sacramento, the individual voter has less of a relative voice in legislation compared to special interests in Sacramento, and as a result, a lot of secret political deals are made that voters aren’t aware of.
While some may claim that the three day wait for the bill to be online is a problem, I believe it is a necessary and proper solution. In cases of legitimate and declared emergency, the demands of Prop 54 would be waived, and swift action could be taken. What this proposal does is allow for legislators to receive public feedback on a bill before they vote for it.
In a democratic society, we are supposed to value debate, and we shouldn’t suppress discussion in the name of expediency. We should never “pass it before reading it.”
Since transparency would lead to more people being aware of what is being passed and more opposition to some bills, it is true that less laws would be passed each year. However, if a bill can survive public scrutiny before passage, it is more likely to be successful when it becomes a law. Too often, bad bills are passed due to lack of public awareness, and once the public realizes what their representatives have voted for, they have no choice but to either live with the consequences of a bad law they don’t like, or they have to go through the arduous or sometimes expensive process of repeal or even referendum.
If we want to increase transparency for all Americans as well as create more efficient laws that survive voter scrutiny, it is important to vote yes on 54 and and bring a citizen voice to a political system dominated by Sacramento special interests.
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