California Common Cause Discourages “Gut-and-Amends” in the Last Days of Session

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  • nicolas heidorn

SACRAMENTO – California Common Cause is urging the Legislature to rein in the frequent practice of bills being completely rewritten, and then passed into law without sufficient public oversight.  Criticizing the process as “undemocratic,” the organization is calling on state lawmakers to require such bills – commonly known as “gut-and-amends” – be made available to the public in print for five days before being put to a vote in either house.
California Common Cause strongly opposes the practice of “gut-and-amend,” whereby at the end of each legislative session, some bills are stripped of their entire contents and replaced with legislative language serving a completely different purpose that has not been reviewed by the public or most members of the Legislature.

“Public deliberation, involvement, and oversight is fundamental to policy-making that is genuinely in the public interest. Gut-and-amend bills are tantamount to “bait-and-switch” schemes,” said Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause.

Adopting a minimum five-day “sunshine rule” would allow for sufficient public and legislative consideration prior to either house passing the bill.  The rule should apply to any significant new policy introduced at the end of any legislative session, 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.

Absent five days of public notice, California Common Cause urges all members of the California Legislature and the Governor to oppose gut-and-amend bills, based on the nonpartisan, procedural concern that they skirt critical public involvement and oversight.

“Non-emergency legislation should not bypass public discussion and review,” said Nicolas Heidorn, California Common Cause Legislative Affairs Counsel. “We should resist the undemocratic impulse for secrecy and non-transparent government – it undermines public trust and confidence.”

California Common Cause’s policy opposing the use of gut-and-amend bills particularly focuses on the final days of the legislative session and on bills that will not be decided by the voters at the ballot box. Common Cause has endorsed Proposition 54, a measure on the November 2016 ballot, which would require all bills to be in print for 72 hours prior to being voted on, as a significant step in this direction.

View our statement on “gut-and-amends” here.


Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

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