Lawmaker Seeks More Public Notice of Legislative Meetings

Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries is some kind of killjoy.

Not only has the Riverside Republican introduced a constitutional amendment that would require the Legislature to meet only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. but he’s also introduced a second constitutional amendment to require public notice of hearings and the meetings of either house.

If Jefferies has his way, not only would marathon last-until-dawn legislative sessions be a thing of the past but so, it would appear, would the time-honored taking up of legislation without reference to file.

Examining ACA 1, which makes changes to Article 1 and Article 4 of the state constitution, it’s hard at first blush to see what Jefferies proposes that’s significantly different from current practice.

He wants committees to prepare agendas of their hearings – both pubic and closed meetings — and make the agendas available to the public. That happens now, at least with the public hearings

Jefferies wants those agendas prepared 72 hours in advance for both meetings of either house or committees and for those agendas to contain a “brief general description of each item to be considered, including items to be considered in closed session. “

For the most part, if legislation isn’t on the agenda it can’t be considered.

Jefferies, who has been a member of the lower house since 2006, might consider as a cost-cutting move the continued use of the Assembly Daily File and the Senate Daily File rather than creating a new agenda format.

For many decades, the files, in great detail, have specified what items are before the legislative body, which ones are eligible to be voted on after being read three times along with a brief description of those measures.

Jefferies would have his agendas “provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the committee on an item of interest to the public, before or during the committee’s consideration of the item.”

The public is currently free to testify on any item on any of the agendas Assembly and Senate committees create now, albeit not 72 hours in advance.

There are provisions for an emergency committee or house meeting to be called without the 72-hour notice.

However, an emergency meeting cannot occur “sooner than one hour after providing telephone notice to each member of the house or committee and to each newspaper of general circulation and television or radio station

requesting notification.”

Here are some the suitable reasons for calling an emergency session:

“A work stoppage, crippling activity, or activity that severely impairs public health or safety.

“A crippling disaster, mass destruction, terrorist act, or threatened terrorist activity that poses an immediate and significant peril to the public health or safety.

“The existence of conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within the State, or parts thereof, caused by conditions such as attack or probable or imminent attack by an enemy of the United States, fire, flood, drought, storm, civil disorder, earthquake, or volcanic eruption.”

(Editor’s Note: Plagues of gnats, frogs and locusts presumptively would be classified as “activity that severely impairs public health or safety.” Or possibly a “crippling disaster.”)

Jefferies’ measure has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.


1 Comment »

  1. Who ever wrote this article must be living within the cone of Capitol silence. Legislators are often asked to vote on bills that are not in print. They are asked to vote on bills being amended and the amended language is not in print. During committee hearings, all 38 million Californians are often limited to Two in favor and Two in opposition for two minutes each. Bills are also amended off the floor in a quickly announced committee meeting with little to no advance public notice. And of course, all of the current rules requiring (allowing) for public oversight and input are “rule” based and can simply be waived by majority vote, and often are.

    Comment by Seeker — 12.14.2010 @ 8:53 am

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