California's Constitution prohibits legislators from acting on any bill until 31 days after its introduction, unless three-fourths of the membership waives this restriction (Article IV, Section 8(a)). Does this provision have any meaning today? Legislators routinely circumvent this requirement with impunity by introducing a brand-new bill in the guise of amendments to an existing bill – the "gut-and-amend" maneuver.
On Friday, August 24, only seven days before adjournment of the two-year session, 24 legislators, all Democrats, used the gut-and-amend maneuver to place 31 brand-new bills before the Legislature. Senator Mark Leno, chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, used the maneuver three times – twice as committee chair and once as an individual member.
In an August 26 editorial calling the gut-and-amend maneuver "an assault on public process," The Sacramento Bee said: "There always will be circumstances that warrant suspension of rules. But in recent years, the end-of-session crush of legislation has careened out of control. Longtime lobbyists and staffers who remember how business once was done in the Capitol become disgusted at the ease with which rules are bent. … The responsibility for the management of the houses rests with Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, (Senate President Pro Tem Darrell) Steinberg, and their successors. Gov. Jerry Brown ought to sharpen his veto pen. If legislative leaders cannot control themselves and their members, voters will have every right and obligation to step in."
The August 24 amendments to SB 71 (Leno) produced a new bill that is 762 pages long.
On August 29, three days before adjournment, three more bills were totally rewritten in gut-and-amend maneuvers, in violation of the spirit of Article IV, Section 8(a) of the California Constitution. They were AB 562 (Hall), changing election deadlines; AB 1092 (Fuentes), relating to housing shelters; and AB 1965 (Pan), relating to flood maps. Another gut-and-amend job, made public August 28, is the conference committee report on pensions that was amended into AB 340 (Furutani).
On August 30, SB 1195 (Price) was totally rewritten from an insurance-related bill to one relating to pharmacy audits, and AB 1098 (Hagman) was gutted and amended from an insurance bill to a bill on distribution of car tax revenue.
August 31, 2012
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