"Strange" Budget Process

Katy Grimes: Yesterday the Assembly passed a myriad of budget trailer bills. Sounds innocuous enough, right? Not according to Assemblyman Jim Nielsen who called the process “strange,” and said the trailer bills are really “individual budget bills.”

Nielsen objected to the more than 30 trailer bills following the primary budget bill, and challenged the process that has been used for the past 10 years of legislative budgets. “We need to get back to historical practice of very few trailer bills,” said Nielsen.

The Department of Finance explains trailer bills: “There are generally budget changes proposed by the Governor or the Legislature which necessitate changes to existing law in order to implement the budget changes. If this is the case, separate bills are introduced to implement the change. These budget implementation bills are called “trailer bills” and are heard concurrently with the Budget Bill. By law, all proposed statutory changes necessary to implement the Governor’s Budget are due to the Legislature by February 1.”

Nielsen said the process has been abused, with trailer bills being used as a conduit for individual pieces of legislation that did not make it into the budget. “Every fast track deal becomes a trailer bill,” said Nielsen. “Legislators can run an entire legislative process in one trailer bill.”

Nielsen said this is a “perversion of the process,” and will be calling for reforms in the Conference Committee on the Budget hearing today.

Be sure to take a look at the 2011-12 Conference Committee Major Issues Document. And watch the hearing on The California Channel.

Stay tuned.

FEB. 23, 2011

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