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Gatto opens up 'Wiki Bill'

Crowdsourcing tool online could open legislative process to the masses.

December 25, 2013|By Tim Traeger, tim.traeger@latimes.com

Assemblyman Mike Gatto wants to hear from you.

The democratic legislator, whose 43rd Assembly District in part blankets Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge and Montrose, is giving the ordinary Joe and Jane a unique opportunity to help craft legislation without having to run for office.

Gatto’s first ever “Wiki Bill” lends the layperson a voice on the front end of lawmaking.

“We’ve encountered people in various settings who want to contribute to the process. They haven’t had as much access because they might not have a lobbyist. If you have ideas, we want to hear them and give people the power to make a difference,” said Justin Hager, Gatto’s spokesman.

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People can propose legislation through an online “wiki” by visiting a “wiki bill’s” website. Not unlike Wikipedia, they can propose, draft, and edit a bill which Gatto will then introduce in the state Legislature.

“This is the first purely crowdsourced piece of legislation in the United States,” Gatto said. “We have advocated for using technology as a tool for citizen engagement. ”

The site, like Wikipedia, will be totally open for constant correction, Gatto said Friday. If a special interest tries to game the system, Gatto said people will realize it and promptly correct any improprieties.

“Two things. We have the same checks and balances as Wikipedia itself. The whole idea is it’s designed to be self-policing,” Gatto said. “If you were to mention the L.A. Times and say it’s the best newspaper in the world, you would be shocked at how soon it would be corrected. I think because of the fanfare, people will watch it and will correct it if anything is wrong.”

The first topic on Gatto’s wiki agenda is probate law, which some say may attract lawyers exclusively. The topic also follows the November shooting death of Gatto’s father, Joseph. Both are purely coincidence, Gatto said.

“The idea was proposed months before my father’s passing,” Gatto said. “It is something that everyone goes through. We debated about changing course, but we decided to move forward with it.”

Some political experts say the idea could be good or bad, depending on the motive.

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