Last week we reported on the record-breaking spending plan, also known as the 2016-2017 California State Budget. The budget allocates a whopping $270 billion dollars with $122.5 billion in the General Fund alone. Many budget trailer bills were passed without the full committee hearing process which left the public without the ability to input their opinion. This, unfortunately, is a common practice with the Democrat Legislative Majority. Our Republican leaders wrote a letter to the Speaker of the Assembly, Anthony Rendon (D), expressing their concerns over the lack of transparency in our state budget process. The letter has been copied below. If you are as outraged as our Republican Representatives, please send this letter to your local newspapers and post it online so that the Californians not paying attention can be made aware of what really happens at the Capitol.
Dear Mr. Speaker:
We write to express our disappointment with the process and lack of transparency that marked the passage of the 2016-17 state budget. Specifically, none of the final bills that implemented the budget (“trailer bills”) were granted a public hearing by the Assembly Budget Committee. It is our responsibility to ensure that the people of California have the opportunity to make their voices heard on all state policy issues, and few issues are more important than our state budget.
Legislative Democrats often point to the various budget subcommittee hearings and the budget conference committee as opportunities for public input. However, the fact is that the budget conference committee specifically prohibits public testimony, and the budget subcommittees primarily adopt “placeholder” language that is only filled in at the very last minute before the bills are voted on by the house. There is no credibility to the claim that “work-in-progress” discussions in sub committees or conference committee constitute a public review and vetting of the final policy bill. When committees direct staff to draft language reflecting conceptual agreements, this language must be brought back to the committee for public review and a final vote. Integrity, transparency and good governance dictate that the committees adopt clear, definitive language that has been scrutinized by the public.
In the Assembly, this year’s budget trailer bills failed this basic test of legislative transparency. In the end, the Senate Budget Committee heard the trailer bills in their final form while the Assembly remained attached to a system designed to pass the budget without public input. This is unacceptable to us, and we hope it is equally unacceptable to you.
A stark example of this lack of transparency was evident just this week with the passage of SB 839 (Resources Trailer Bill) and SB 840 (Energy Trailer Bill), which were passed off the Assembly Floor with language that had only been publicly available for one day. Unfortunately, there are many other examples as well. Californians should not fear what may be slipped into a budget trailer bill because of the failure to hold hearings to review the bills.
This year’s state budget spends a record $122.5 billion General Fund and nearly $270 billion overall. It is imperative that the process be open and transparent, and this starts with ensuring that the public is able to review and comment on clear, definitive final language. We can do better and the public deserves it.
Our Caucuses have worked well together on several issues this session; however on the issue of transparency our differences remain. As we move forward this year and in the future, we hope you will guarantee that the Assembly holds public hearings on all final budget trailer bills and also ensure all other legislative measures receive the proper level of transparency and public participation.
CHAD MAYES JAY OBERNOLTE
Assembly Republican Leader Assembly Republican Budget Vice-Chair
June 30th is the last day for propositions to qualify for the November ballot. The CFRW will switch gears come end of August to really focus on the ballot measures. We will take positions on the measures, which will end up being close to 20 on the ballot. We will devote a majority of the Capitol Update to education on the propositions. It is so important that when you read the Capitol Update, you understand the measures we are focusing on and are able to educate other Californians on what they voting for.
July 1st is the last day for committees to hear and report bills to the floor. Then the Legislature goes on its summer recess. Next week will be the last Capitol Update until August. The Capitol Update will take a short recess as well to research ballot measures then be back the first week of August to start our General Election education! Be sure to stay plugged in!