SACRAMENTO — Good-government groups and policy advocates are calling for reform of a state Assembly rule that lets lawmakers amend their votes once a bill has passed or failed, saying changing the system is necessary for the public to maintain trust in the Legislature.
An Associated Press analysis published Wednesday found that lawmakers in the 80-member Assembly changed their votes more than 5,000 times during this year's legislative session, a practice that allows lawmakers to obscure how they act when votes actually matter. The state Senate allows vote changes only for the two party leaders.
"It's one of those simple practices that start to erode confidence in the Legislature," said Jim Mayer, executive director of the government-reform group California Forward. "Our institutions have to become squeaky clean because public confidence is needed for democracy to work."
Philip Ung, a spokesman for the government watchdog group Common Cause, said allowing lawmakers to add or revise their votes after the fate of a bill has been decided feeds the perception that lawmakers are looking out for their own interests over those of their constituents.
"We would like to see the practice either eliminated or limited," he said, adding that Common Cause might target the practice in a package of proposed legislative reforms it aims to roll out for the 2013 session.
Mayer, whose organization is sponsoring a budget-reform initiative on the November ballot, said a ballot measure probably would be necessary to ban the practice.
"Our experience is that this institution is unlikely to fix itself," he said.
The AP analysis found that all Assembly members altered votes after the fact at least once and some changed more than 200 times. Advocates say the practice, which cannot affect a bill's outcome, makes it harder for them to do their jobs.
When lawmakers can alter their voting record for political reasons, "it makes it difficult to understand what you need to do in order to get your lawmaker to 'yes," said Rajdeep Singh, director of law and policy for the New York-based Sikh Coalition.