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A bipartisan handful of legislators is trying to stop the Sacramento tradition known as the "gut-and-amend" bill -- the last-minute, late-night law-making that has become the summertime norm in the Capitol.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, a Modesto Republican, and two Democratic senators - Lois Wolk of Davis and Mark DeSaulnier of Concord - have introduced constitutional amendments that would require bills be in print for at least three days before lawmakers can vote on them. Similar measures have failed in the past.

"The halls of the state Capitol are desperate for governance reforms that will increase transparency, facilitate good decision making and strengthen the ability of citizens to actively participate in their state government," Olsen said today during a news conference to promote her ACA 4.

The proposal, she said, "would allow legislators to thoroughly analyze measures before voting and end the midnight votes on backroom deals."

In past years, Olsen said, lawmakers have passed budget deals that were written just 15 minutes earlier. Legislators have also used the gut-and-amend process to write bills about abortion, immigration, tax policy, and union organizing for child care workers.

DeSaulnier said he'd signed on as a co-author because in his seven years as a legislator "there have been frequent times at the end of session where I wasn't able to read the content of a bill that was extremely important."

"It empowers the public and all (lawmakers) more when you have the time to actually digest and read the content before you," he said. "Strange concept."

The measure is sponsored by California Common Cause, an advocacy group that promotes government transparency.

"Seventy-two hours is not a long time," said Phillip Ung, a Common Cause advocate. "But it's enough time to put some thought into these bills and to hear from constituents, which is exactly what legislators are supposed to be doing."

The measures require approval by two-thirds of each house. ACA 4 gets its first committee hearing tomorrow.

PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, during her news conference today. Behind her are, from left to right: Ron Costa, Superintendent of Eascalon Unified School District; Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; and Phillip Ung, policy advocate with California Common Cause. Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall


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