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Assemblyman Mike Gatto to use 'crowdsourcing' to craft new bill

Laws and LegislationCrime, Law and JusticeMike GattoWikimedia Foundation, Inc.

SACRAMENTO -- Assemblyman Mike Gatto said Monday he will introduce a bill next year on the state's probate code. However, what that bill is going to say is still to be determined -- not by the the assemblyman, but by online input.

Gatto (D-Los Angeles) said he plans to craft the legislation using public participation on an online wiki. The process is inspired by the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia, which allows users to submit and edit articles.

"This is a great way for people to have a voice in their government," Gatto said in a statement. "Too often, special-interest groups draft legislation. In contrast, 'crowdsourcing' a bill on the Wiki platform will allow for a fully transparent brainstorming, drafting, and editing process that will incorporate ideas from a large group of people.  The collective wisdom of the public will choose the final product."

The measure is to propose changes to the state's probate code, which governs how a deceased person's assets are distributed. 

"We wanted to select some area of the law where there were a large number of people who were very, very well-versed in it -- people who already had some ideas they wanted to submit but didn’t know how," Gatto said in an interview Monday.

Gatto said he chose that subject of the proposed legislation because it was the right mix of "wonky" and universal. "Everybody has gone through the loss of loved one in their life," he said.

Gatto has experienced his own recent loss: His father was found murdered in his Silver Lake home last month. Gatto said the focus on the probate code was an "unfortunate coincidence," and that his office had been working on the "wiki bill" proposal for several months.

Part of the inspiration behind the idea, Gatto said, was his interest in initiative reform. The initiative process allows citizens to participate in the legislative process, but Gatto said ballot measures have become too expensive and give too little flexibility to lawmakers. 

"If we were to diminish initiative power, there's the question of what would you replace it with to ensure citizen participation," Gatto said. "What if every legislator committed to doing one bill like this? The public will feel like they have taken back their government."

To participate, people can go to www.mikegatto.wikispaces.com to view the draft legislation and propose changes. Gatto will introduce whatever version of the bill emerges by the deadline to introduce new bills, tentatively set for Feb. 21.

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melanie.mason@latimes.com

Twitter: @melmason

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