Prop. 54 legislative transparency measure faces little opposition

ballot-measureFor all the fighting and million-dollar spending over November’s 17 ballot measures, one proposal stands nearly unopposed.

Not entirely unopposed, but the committee against a measure aimed at making legislative proceedings in Sacramento more transparent is unfunded and run entirely by the pro bono work of Democratic political strategist Steve Maviglio.

If approved by voters, the measure would amend the state Constitution to require that the Legislature make available online the final version of a bill at least 72 hours prior to a vote on either the Assembly or Senate floor.

It would also require videos of all open legislative meetings to be recorded and then posted online with 24 hours, and would allow individuals to record and share their own videos of open meetings.  

Maviglio has the political savvy to run the campaign — he’s working on two measures in support of the ban on plastic bags and against another measure to require voter approval for revenue bonds of $2 billion or more — but the money just isn’t there. 

“It’s an uphill battle to be sure because many donors have bigger fish to fry,” Maviglio said. “But this is a measure that voters don’t understand as evidenced by the extraordinary amount of money that billionaire Charles Munger (Jr.) is pouring into it.”

One donor is definitely interested

While the measure enjoys a broad coalition of bipartisan supporters, Munger, a Palo Alto physicist and GOP donor, has in fact bankrolled the effort thus far, giving nearly $7 million to the cause, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Maviglio has publicly taken shots at the measure when given the opportunity, most notably in the opinion pages of The Sacramento Bee.

In December, Maviglio pointed to the 2008 budget agreement, the 1959 Fair Housing Act, the 2006 climate change bill (AB32) and the 2014 water bond as tough votes taken without 72 hours notice. This measure, he argued, would subject iffy legislators to attacks from special interest groups and could derail the agreements.

But proponents of Prop. 54 say if a deal is a good one, it can be done with enough time for the public to know the details and which special interests, if any, are pulling the strings. And legislators, they argue, could feel assured they know what they’re voting on.

“Steve Maviglio is the ultimate political insider whose ‘committee’ opposing Prop. 54 has no members and has not reported any funding,” said Prop. 54 spokeswoman Mary Ellen Grant. “We can only guess that Mr. Maviglio opposes Prop. 54 because he believes the only way legislation can be passed in Sacramento is by continuing to keep voters in the dark.”

Is it necessary?

Frustration boiled over last month during the final days of the legislative session with last-minute deals that gave lawmakers little time to review the details.

One bill in particular, a measure to increase oversight of the California Public Utilities Commission, died because because CPUC officials requested last-minute changes and some lawmakers felt concerned there wasn’t enough time to vet the proposal.

Earlier this year, legislative leaders offered their own version of a similar proposal, but it was panned by Prop. 54 proponents who said it was “not palatable” and criticized lawmakers for waiting until 15 days before the deadline to begin negotiations. 

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