SAN FRANCISCO -- With debate still raging about how it should be
interpreted, the new voter-approved Proposition 54 law could be headed all the
way to the California Supreme Court for greater elucidation.
In early November, more than 65 percent of all
California voters cast their ballots in favor of a law requiring lawmakers to
end the practice of
passing last-minute legislation, particularly in instances where the bill’s
language hasn’t been distributed to the public prior to passage, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The ongoing dispute
between Democratic lawmakers and government-accountability groups now centers on
whether the law’s mandated 72-hour waiting period applies to either chamber of
the legislature, or only when the proposal is on the verge of being sent to the
governor’s desk for signature.
game of showmanship between two unwavering sides could go on well into 2017, by
which time the case is finally expected to have made its way onto the crowded
docket of California Supreme Court judges.
“The arguments will probably be many, but I can’t
think of a single legal reason why Proposition 54 would not be upheld by the
courts as constitutional,” Tom Hogen-Esch, professor of political science at
California State University, Northridge, told the Northern
California Record. “The California state constitution is a lengthy document,
one with many, many provisions, but in this instance, it seems a case of the
voter having already spoken.”
Lawmakers recently enacted operational rules that take the far more narrower interpretation of the law to heart. Specific
language now mandates that only a “Senate bill shall not be voted upon by the Assembly
for final passage” until after the 72-hour waiting period.
Hogan-Esch doesn’t think that development will sit
well with voters, the majority of whom overwhelmingly cast their
ballot in favor of the three-day waiting period.
“You could argue that’s not what voters had in mind
when they went to the polls in the droves they did to vote in favor of this
bill and its passage as strongly as they did,” he said.
Almost from the moment it was placed on the ballot,
disputes have stirred about the bill’s true intent and what impact its policies
could have on legislative dealings.
Critics of the initiative have long argued that the
72-hour waiting period simply provides powerful and unrelenting special-interest groups with yet another avenue they could use to dismantle the kind of alliances that
are often needed for the passage of many of the most controversial but critical
With local Democrats
already on record in vowing to do all they can to stymie such actions as the
immigration crackdown Republican President-elect Donald Trump has longed
promised to carry out, debate over the legality of the bill is expected to only
isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” Hogen-Esch said. “It isn’t going anywhere
until a court has weighed in on it and cleared up all the ambiguity. In that sense,
the battle may only be just beginning.”