Writer: Yozaima Escobar
In Sacramento, special interests have a distinct advantage over constituents. The rigged system allows special interests to have almost unchecked access to a legislator’s ear at the expense of Californians. However, this November, voters will have a chance to level the playing the field and put their voice first.
Proposition 54 — The California Legislature Transparency Act — will bring the legislature into the 21st century by including modern technology in the legislative process. This common sense initiative has broad bipartisan support, and as a board member for the CALPIRG chapter on campus, I am proud to support Proposition 54 on this November’s ballot.
Proposition 54 is very simple and straightforward. It will only require the legislature to do three things.
First, Proposition 54 will require all legislation to be printed and posted online at least 72 hours prior to being voted out of either house. By requiring a 72-hour review period, legislators and their staff will have enough time to read and analyze legislation. Special interests would no longer be able to push last minute amendments that can completely change the intent of a bill. This will ensure that only well thought out legislation will be passed.
Second, Proposition 54 will require all committee hearings open to the public to be recorded and posted online. Committees are one of the most important aspects of the legislative process, as they are part of the path to the governor’s desk.
It is no surprise that these committees are often held in small capitol rooms that avoid media attention and public scrutiny. Recording these hearings will shine light on the committee process and hold legislators and special interests accountable.
Concerned Californians would no longer need to take time off from work or pay for expensive travel to be involved with the legislative process. Instead, posting committee hearings online will beam the legislative process to every smartphone and into every home with an Internet connection. Everyday Californians will be empowered to ensure legislators hear their most valuable currency, their voice.
The final requirement will allow individuals who attend legislative sessions or hearings to be able to record and share their videos online. In a sharing culture where every phone has a camera, it is shocking the legislature does not allow video recordings.
Our legislators are always trying to find ways to increase civic engagement and even passed a bill allowing selfies with a ballot to encourage voting and democratic participation. Why not let citizens record, snap and share their experiences with their friends and followers? Hundreds of cities and counties already allow it! At the very least, it would encourage Californians to be engaged with politics and add an element of “cool” to an institution often considered boring and old-fashioned.
For many of you, this will be your first opportunity to make a difference at the ballot box. If you believe our government should be more open and transparent, then I encourage all of my fellow UCR students to join me in voting “Yes” on Proposition 54 on this November’s ballot.
Yozaima Escobar is a third-year sociology major and a board member for the local CALPIRG chapter at University of California, Riverside.