California imposes strict laws governing transparency and accountability for agencies, counties, cities, and schools. However, it has exempted itself from many of these laws. This has reduced the ability for the press and the public to engage the legislature. As a result the balance of power has moved decidedly in the favor of powerful well-connected special interests with their armies of lobbyists who walk the halls of the capitol. This proposal argues that a basket of "best practice" open government reforms would dramatically increase the public's ability to hold its legislature accountable, decrease the power of special interest insiders, and increase the responsiveness of state government to the true needs of its citizenry. These reforms would:
+ Strengthen the public's right of access to legislative records by establishing a higher legal standard in the constitution for the courts to apply when determining when such records can be withheld.
+ Require all legislation to be available in writing for public review for at least 72 hours before a final vote in either house.
+ Require all legislative hearings to be videotaped and available online to the public within 24 hours of occurrence.
+ Require all information released by the legislature to be online and in digital machine-readable and searchable formats.
+ Require all position letters authored by corporations, unions, and non-profits sent to lobby legislative committees by expressing perspectives or positions on pending legislation to be posted online for public review at least 24 hours before a committee vote.
+ Require quarterly line item disclosure of all the legislature's spending on its own member, committee, and caucus activities including travel, staff, contracts, direct mail, and perks.
+ and other provisions to improve transparency.