Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, May. 7, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 7, 2013 – 8:37 am

There’s nothing ambiguous about Article IV, Section 8a of the California Constitution:

“At regular sessions no bill other than the budget bill may be heard or acted upon by committee or either (legislative) house until the 31st day after the bill has been introduced unless the house dispenses with this requirement by roll-call vote entered into the journal, three-fourths of the membership concurring.”

Its purpose is clear: The Legislature should give the public and those directly affected some time to weigh the import and impact of a new law before it is enacted, unless there’s a genuine emergency.

Or, to turn it around, it’s bad form for the Legislature to whip up secret legislation and impose it on the public. But the Legislature often does just that, thus violating the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of the constitution.

It’s called “gut-and-amend.”

Suddenly – usually in the final, hectic hours of a legislative session – a dormant bill is stripped of its contents and entirely new language is inserted. The new measure is quickly enacted, sometimes before legislators can even read it.

This pernicious practice has become even worse in recent months. Democratic legislative leaders now routinely insert token $1,000 appropriations into late-blooming bills and declare them to be “budget trailer bills.”

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