Politics

Amendment to Allow State Legislators to Work Remotely During Emergencies Passes Assembly

Written by Julianne Foster

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin has introduced the Assembly Constitutional Amendment 25 in hopes of returning representation for California citizens to the government’s meetings and decisions. The purpose of ACA 25 is to allow remote attendance and proxy voting at legislative proceedings solely during declared states of emergency, such as the current COVID-19 situation. 

The Legislature’s recess due to COVID-19 was unprecedented in California’s history and on top of recent social unrest, lawmakers had been prevented from meeting in Sacramento and conducting state business for several months. Especially since the Legislature’s use of technology is “stuck in the past,” according to Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, who represents the 75th Assembly District.

“Remote hearings must receive two-thirds approval from Members, and will be allowed only during the emergency when Members are unavailable or cannot safely attend,” Waldron explained. “Any deviations from normal procedures will be subject to judicial review with the burden of proof on the Legislature to prove the deviations are necessary.”

There is some opposition to the proposal, however, claiming that ACA 25 would allow lawmakers to work in secret and behind the backs of California citizens.

“This would cut everyone off from the legislative process: lobbyists and the public,” argues Katy Grimes of California Globe. “Only chosen special interests would have access. Lawmakers would not have to take calls from anyone they would rather not hear from.”

Opponents are concerned with what legislators may be planning to do in secret that might only support their special interest groups. However, Waldron feels it does the opposite, as “recent amendments to ACA 25 protect public access by requiring hearings to be open and public.”

Waldron, along with Assemblymembers Mullin, Cooley, and Ting, is concerned with the 40 million Californians without representation during such a critical time. They “lack clear authority to conduct remote hearings and almost no official business can be conducted during emergency shutdowns.” The State Assembly, with its two-year terms, is the chamber that is most subject to the people with important responsibilities such as oversight over the executive branch of California’s government.

The ACA 25 proposal passed in the State Assembly 60-13, but it must also pass with a two-thirds majority vote in the State Senate. If it passes the Senate, it will appear on the November ballot where a simple majority of voters would make it amended to the California Constitution.

 

Photo by GotCredit via Flickr