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Gut-and-amend controversial in CA Legislature

August 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A controversial practice called gut-and-amend is part of the last-minute tradition among lawmakers to get their bill passed during the waning days of session. But not everyone is pleased with the practice.

"It compromises a citizen's opportunity to participate in their government, and I am screaming and yelling about it every day around here," said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.

In the gut-and-amend process, lawmakers take an unrelated existing measure that's already been approved by several committees. Then they empty the contents and add in another bill.

In one case, a proposal allows nurse practitioners and other non-doctors to continue performing abortions in a pilot study. It's a weaker version of an earlier bill, but still ensures expanded access.

"We have a shrinking availability, and yet we have a need. It is a legal right that women have," said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

But critics say six days before the end of session is not the time to revive a bill.

"And now to have it gutted and amended with no ability for the public to come and voice their opposition again like they did in committee is absolutely inexcusable," said Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen, R-Modesto.

Senate President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, defends the practice. He himself has a bill that would allow mail-in ballots that are postmarked on Election Day to be counted since the post office is closing some warehouses and possibly slowing delivery.

"Sometimes a gut and amend is necessary to deal with a pressing situation," he said.

One bill formerly dealing with air pollution from old vehicles now would allow up to 2 million undocumented immigrants to live and work openly in California so they can pay their state income taxes.

The author defends his proposal, saying there has been debate on the issue when it was an initiative that ultimately failed to get enough signatures.

"It's major policy, but we've been having these conversations for the better part of a year," said Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar.


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