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Gatto launches crowd-sourced 'Wiki Bill'

'Self-policing' tool online could open legislative process to the masses.

December 28, 2013|By Tim Traeger, tim.traeger@latimes.com

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) is giving the ordinary Joe — and Jane — an opportunity to help craft legislation without having to run for office.

Gatto, whose district includes Glendale, Burbank, La Cañada Flintridge and Montrose, has launched the first-ever “Wiki Bill,” which lends the layperson a voice on the front-end of lawmaking.

Residents can propose legislation through an online “wiki” by visiting www.MikeGatto.wikispaces.com.

Not unlike Wikipedia, residents can propose, draft and edit a bill which Gatto may then introduce into the state legislature next year.

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“This is the first purely crowd-sourced 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. If a special interest tries to game the system, Gatto said people will realize it and promptly correct any improprieties.

“We have the same checks and balances as Wikipedia itself. The whole idea is it’s designed to be self-policing,” Gatto said.

The first topic on his wiki agenda is probate law, which follows the shooting death of his father last month, but that is simply a 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 Gatto’s motive.

“If Mike is simply trying to float something that expands the ability of the average citizen to weigh in and help make public policy, that would be one thing,” said Jaime Regalado, a political analyst and professor emeritus at Cal State Los Angeles.

“If, in fact, he’s trying to make it easier for a certain segment of the populace, the special interests or the lawyers or somebody else, then it raises a lot of concerns. So I think we’re going to have to see some of the details before we can make a decision,” Regalado said.

According to Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, Gatto’s idea isn’t new.

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