LEGISLATIVE LOOPHOLES – ROUND 1
THE GUT and AMEND
When we talk about “gutting” anything, we are usually referring to what happens to an animal after a successful hunt.
A “legislative” gut is a tad similar in that innards (content) are removed, but there is nothing positive about it. It’s a favorite, yet shifty maneuver where a supposedly insignificant bill is stripped of its language, replaced with brand new content that has nothing to do with the original idea, and then brought up for a vote without benefit of public hearings in the final days of session. Or to use another analogy, it’s kind of like a baseball player advancing directly to third – without hitting the ball, let alone running through bases one and two! It allows lawmakers to bypass the usual deadlines for bill introductions and amendments, while evading a public review process that allows those interested in a particular piece of legislation to testify during committee hearings or write a lawmaker with their concerns.
Even though many members react with loathing at such lack of government transparency, the powers that be have killed every move to permanently end the process (via statute). The existing “House Rules” require public notice and prohibit last minute amendments, but they are just too easy to break (or “waive”) with a simple majority vote. Indeed, when you run the joint, the legislative world is your oyster.
Jim Mayer, executive director of the nonpartisan think tank California Forward has been quoted as saying “The problem isn’t just gut-and-amend, it’s kind of gut-and-pervert…every gut-and-amend — it’s really a power play — comes with the suspicion that it’s to avoid public scrutiny.”
With just week to go until the Legislature reconvenes, it’s hard to know what exactly may take place, but here’s some examples of shifty shenanigans from years past:
Last year, a bill about an LA reservoir turned into a gun buy-back program and a community college proposal got a fresh new look as immigration reform. A few years back, a bill on tuberculosis and California’s immunization system was “revised” to stop local governments from banning project labor agreements – a move that enraged many cities throughout the state. Another bill originally concerned the operations of the California Transportation Commission until it was gutted to add increased protections for farmworkers who want to join a union.
Ronald Reagan once said, “When you’re up to your armpits in alligators, it’s hard to remember to drain the swamp.”
There’s no lack of alligators in the legislative swamp and it’s stuff like the gut and amend that should scare every Californian – whether you are a gun owner or not. It’s a bureaucratic brush off to you, the public. It’s a “we’re smarter than all you normal folk and we don’t care what you say.”
It’s cowardly. It’s disrespectful. And pun fully intended, it’s downright gutless. Let’s drain the swamp.