Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Fix Sacramento: Keep the Politicians Away from It

Over the weekend, we got a piece of good news from the Sacramento Bee. Apparently, California voters may get a chance to keep their lawmakers away from the Capitol Dome, where they can do less harm: according to the Bee, Bakersfield Assemblywoman Shannon Grove and the political watchdog People's Advocate are planning a ballot measure to convert California to a part-time legislature.

Any day this room is empty is a good day.
If their effort is successful, California's Legislature would meet no more than three months per year: 30 days in January, and 60 days in May and June. Governors would be permitted to convene special sessions, but these could last no more than 15 days. What's more, lawmakers' pay would be scaled back significantly, from the nearly $8,000 per month they enjoy now to $1,500 per month. The Legislature would be required to submit a balanced, two-year budget by June 15 in every odd-numbered year, and would forfeit their pay for every day it's late. Finally, lawmakers would be prohibited from accepting state employment or appointments to state boards while in office and for five years afterward.

Critics of the measure will likely haul out their usual laundry list of complaints; if you've ever listened to critics of term limits, you've probably heard them already. Blah blah blah, not enough time to develop the necessary expertise to do the job well, blah blah blah, reliance on lobbyists. Grove and People's Advocate representatives like Ted Costa are pursuing the plan as a way of curbing the worst instincts of a Legislature dominated by organized labor. This is understandable, but it misses the point. To see why California needs this proposal, you need only look at the comments from John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez: Vigna said, essentially, that a large economy like California's needs full-time leadership. Yet what sort of "leadership" does our Legislature actually provide? Primarily, it confiscates an ever-increasing share of private capital, funnels large portions of that capital toward wasted endeavors (like green energy) and make-work projects for organized labor (like high speed rail), slaps crushing regulations on private enterprise, and thinks up more and more ways to interfere in the lives of law-abiding citizens. Any day these people aren't in Sacramento "leading" in this fashion is a good day for the rest of us.


  1. OMG, my first thought was that this would turn into a "California would be so much better off if they didn't keep electing Democrats" piece, but it's so much better than that. I have thought this would amount to an immense improvement for years now. It seems all the legislature does is scheme to spend money they don't have. A part-time legislature will have another positive side effect: it means the parasites won't be able to (as easily) become rich at the public till. I know there's such an effect at the Federal level, and I suspect there is at the state level as well.

  2. Thanks. Anyone who thinks an influx of Republicans in Sacramento would be a positive for individual liberty needs to think back to the dark days of the Schwarzenegger era.

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