Budget ‘transparency’ murky in Senate

June 14, 2013

By Katy Grimes

CA spending transparency, Cagle, March 31, 2013

SACRAMENTO — I watched in dismay as Senate Democrats voted yesterday to bypass proper procedure in order to play politics with the budget. They withdrew several of their budget bills from the Rules Committee, to send them directly to the Senate Floor.

This is a big breach of protocol, but is becoming commonplace in both houses of the Legislature.

“This is $230 billion dollars’ worth of partisan budget legislation produced behind closed doors by essentially three people,” Sen. Minority Leader Bob Huff said. “There hasn’t been a single public hearing on the actual bills that will have actual impacts on very real people.”

Huff said bypassing the rules would deny the public the opportunity to review and comment on the impact of the budget legislation during open and public budget hearings.

Under the Joint Rules, all bills with any fiscal impact are required to be heard in the Budget Committee or Appropriations committee before they can be sent to the Senate floor.

But it was 23-9 party line vote. Someone wasn’t listening.

The Capitol swamp water is getting even murkier

Huff told Senate colleagues millions of Californians deserve the opportunity to read the budget bills and contact their elected representatives prior to the vote.

And, Senators need to be able to read the bills before voting on them.

“Even during the Budget Conference Committee hearing last Monday night when so much of what was voted on was simply approving what was already agreed to behind closed doors, the actual budget language did not exist,” Huff said.

“The final version (of the budget) was constructed with no public input,” added Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands. Emmerson is Vice Chairman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. “This is not the best way to do the people’s business.”

Emmerson noted that the budget has changed significantly since it was first introduced in January. “The people deserve the opportunity to provide their testimony on how the budget will impact their lives and communities.”

Huff added: “I’m confident that California voters did not intend government openness and transparency to suffer when they gave the Legislature simple-majority budget powers, but there’s no question that’s the case now.”

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