In the furor over the Legislature's effort to emasculate the California Public Records Act, some may have paid scant attention to the manner in which that effort was brought forward: as a trailer bill.

Trailer bills, often slipped quietly into the back pocket of budget bills, are vehicles for bringing about policy changes without public input, and often without even public knowledge. They're usually written behind closed doors, sometimes just a matter of hours before they come up for floor votes in both legislative houses. When their contents are considered harmless, no one cares much about their origin. But when, for example, they decimate a principle of open government, as trailer bill AB 76 sought to do this week, they can justifiably stir up a hornet's nest.

There's an easy solution. The Legislature's Democratic leadership ought to agree to do what rank-and-file lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, have supported: initiate an amendment that would require legislation to be published 72 hours before it is voted on. The public would have a much better chance to spot worrisome agendas before it's too late.