California Lawmakers Pass 37 Empty Budget Bills

California Lawmakers Pass 37 Empty Budget Bills
May 14, 2013

Another secretive budget is in the near future as California Democrats passed 37 empty budget “spot bills” Monday.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Los Angeles), the author of AB 74, the budget bills and chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, called the bills “budget vehicles.” Blumenfield said Republicans began to care about the budget trailer bills only after passage of Proposition 25, which ended the requirement for two-thirds of the Legislature to vote in favor of the state’s budget. The budget is now passed on a majority vote of the Legislature.

The empty budget “spot bills” usually sit unused until they are needed, usually on the day the budget is due, June 15. They are not vetted and don’t go through the usual public legislative committee process.

‘About Results’

“The last two years we’ve passed the budget on time,” Blumenfield said. “It’s about results.”

Blumenfield said prior to passage of Prop. 25, Republicans used to “leverage” the budget. “They would insert awful things into the budget,” Blumenfield said.

Blumenfield may have felt confident about the 37 budget bills’ passage by the Assembly, but his budget committee co-chairman, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarill), wasn’t so enthusiastic.

“The budget should be developed in each of the sub areas . . . then the Assembly passes the budget by itself,” Gorell said. “This undermines transparency, and empowers staff over legislators.”

‘Erodes Trust’

“This erodes the public trust,” Gorell added. “Bring the budget out into the light so we can see what we will be asked to vote on. This will only promote a broken system.”

The last two budgets  were largely done outside of the legislative committees using the trailer bills.

Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen (R-Modesto) also said she opposed AB 74. “When we pass one bill or 37 with no language in them, it’s quite opposite of transparency and why we keep receiving ‘D’ grades in transparency as a state.”

Olsen was the author of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4, a transparency bill that would have required proposed legislation be in print for 72 hours before a vote could be taken. This would have allowed lawmakers and the public to review and analyze bills before they are voted on.

Death of Transparency

But Democrats in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 6, with Blumenfield as subcommittee chairman, killed her transparency bill before it was even heard.

“Any publicly traded company caught not giving information to stockholders goes to prison,” said Assemblyman Mike Morell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) in arguing for defeat of the bills. “Ours is the largest budget in the nation. A ‘no’ vote sends the message to our constituents we are watching out for them.”

The Assembly passed the 37 spot bills and AB 74 on a 51-24 vote.

Katy Grimes (kgrimes@calwatchdog.com) reports for CalWatchdog.com, where a version of this article first appeared. Used with permission.