California Common Cause Policy Statement Against “Gut-and-Amend” Bills
California Common Cause strongly opposes “gut-and-amend” legislation that is introduced in the final days of the legislative session, skirting any public hearings or legislative deliberation. We define “gut-and-amend” bills to mean any bill that has had its prior subject-matter entirely or significantly replaced with unrelated subject-matter different from its original purpose. Absent a state or local emergency declared by either the Governor or by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature supporting the need for such emergency action, the Legislature and Governor should oppose all gut-and-amend bills that provide insufficient time for public review, including all gut-and-amend bills that are made available to the public for fewer than five days before being voted on by either house.
Consistent with this, California Common Cause supports any effort either in the Legislature or through the initiative process seeking to amend the State Constitution to require that all gut-and-amend bills be in print for at least five business days prior to their adoption by either house, absent a formal emergency either declared by the Governor or by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature. Common Cause has endorsed Proposition 54, which would require all bills to be in print for 72 hours prior to being voted on, as a significant step in this direction.
California Common Cause urges all Members of the California Legislature and the Governor to oppose all last-week gut-and-amend bills that have not been subject to at least five days of public review, regardless of the substantive merit of such measures, based on the nonpartisan concern that they skirt critical public involvement and oversight.
California Common Cause views public deliberation, involvement, and oversight to be fundamental to policy-making that is genuinely in the public interest. No non-emergency legislation is so important that it justifies bypassing public review, which serves not only to stop measures that may in fact subvert the public interest, but also to ensure new policies will work well for the greatest number of people. While California Common Cause appreciates that at times it may seem that important policy is so controversial that it can only be secured by substantially bypassing public deliberation and review, this organization challenges those involved to resist this undemocratic impulse for secrecy and non-transparent government. California Common Cause rejects the notion that for some important public policy goals, the ends clearly justifies the means, when such means is founded upon secrecy, the violation of normal and open legislative process, and inadequate public involvement. California Common Cause opposes the use of the so-called gut-and-amend process in the Legislature, along with any other measures relying on this “sleight of hand” means in the final days of the legislative process to accomplish their objectives. We call on the Legislature to reject, and the Governor to veto, Gut-and-amend bills that are adopted by either house with fewer than five business days for public review.
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