Censorship in Senate

In an unusual move, a public hearing on the November ballot initiatives was closed to cameras
Censorship in Senate

Voters need to be well informed about the ballot initiatives they will be vote on. Therefore, it is surprising that the California Senate prevented a public hearing about the most important propositions for November from being televised.

It all started last Wednesday, when the Governance and Finance Committee held a mandatory public hearing on three tax increases (Propositions 30, 38 and 39) and modifying the state’s budgetary procedures (Proposition 31).

The purpose of this type of hearing is informational, so those who are in favor and against an initiative can express their points of view.

But this hearing was different. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg decided not to allow the California Channel, which since 1991 has been broadcasting the work of the legislature in Sacramento to 5.5 million households, to telecast the hearing.

The explanation for this unusual action was that it was “inappropriate to provide legislative resources to promote the ballot measure campaigns of either side… for exploitation in political TV commercials.” Meaning, there were no cameras to avoid a later use of witness testimony during a public hearing in a political context.

If these are the criteria, then all TV cameras in the legislature would be turned off, because politicians and special interest representatives promoting their own agenda are always there. That is the work that takes place in the Capitol.

More outrageous is the decision that the right to information of millions of Californians is less important than the possibility of having a political ad made with part of the hearing.

It is true that California’s economic future is at stake with these ballot initiatives, but that is no reason for the most basic censorship. This action sets an awful precedent and reflects fear among the Democrats of the arguments from opponents of tax increases.

Let’s remember that legislative public hearings exist to inform as many people as possible; this is what the cameras are for.