Archive for Fixing the California Legislature

Sources for Claims That One-Party Control and Government Taking More Money Triggered a California Comeback

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Prominent “Progressives” identify a simple way for governments to ease economic and social problems: take more money from people as tax revenue and spend it on programs and projects. And in 2013 they can cite an example that seems to conform with their ideas.

Yes, it’s California.

Below is a fairly comprehensive list of sources for this claim. Notice that many of these sources are based on the East Coast.

Reporters and columnists for the New York Times seem to be particularly knowledgeable about the political and economic circumstances of California. They have even personified the claim through Governor Jerry Brown, as if one heroic, enlightened man alone engineered a “comeback” for the state. (Governor Brown doesn’t do much to dispel the myth.)

I’m guessing that the interest of the New York Times in California’s economy and budget is based primarily on needing to tout an example that the federal government should emulate. The nation’s intellectual elite continues to be frustrated that the “New New Deal” that Progressives were envisioning for America after the November 2008 election never came to fruition. The “Tea Party” has exploited outdated structural checks and balances of the republican model of government and permitted the thinking of the Reagan Era to linger, hindering Progress.

California Comeback:
One-Party Control and Higher Taxes as a Model for Success
  1. California Beaming – commentary by Tim Egan – New York Times – March 28, 2013
  2. Lessons From a Comeback – column by Paul Krugman – New York Times – March 31, 2013
  3. California Faces a New Quandary, Too Much MoneyNew York Times – May 25, 2013
  4. California’s New ‘Problem’: Jerry Brown on the Sudden Surplus, and the FilibusterThe Atlantic – May 26, 2013
  5. The California Comeback: How Progressives Stopped California’s Decline – video of panel discussion at 2013 Netroots Nation – June 22, 2013
  6. California Shows the Country How to Overcome GOP Dead-EndersNew Republic – July 1, 2013
  7. California Resurgent Under Brown, But Spending a Worry – Associated Press – July 5, 2013
  8. California Economy is on the Comeback Trail. Can America Follow?Christian Science Monitor – July 23, 2013
  9. Brown Cheered in Second Act, at Least So FarNew York Times – August 16, 2013
  10. Jerry Brown’s Tough-Love California Miracle: The 75-year-old governor rescued the Golden State from financial ruin – and is reshaping a national progressive agenda – Rolling Stone – August 29, 2013
  11. New Rule: Conservatives Who Love to Brag About American Exceptionalism Must Come Here to California – commentary by Bill Maher – Huffington Post – September 27 2013
  12. Jerry Brown Calls Washington Gridlock Dangerous, ‘Really Sick’Sacramento Bee – October 2, 2013
  13. Sacramento Not as Dysfunctional as Washington, D.C. – column by Tim Rutten – Los Angeles Daily News – October 11, 2013
  14. California Sees Gridlock Ease in GoverningNew York Times – October 18, 2013
  15. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Advice for WashingtonLos Angeles Times – October 24, 2013
  16. California, Jerry Brown Enjoying Rave Reviews, but Comparisons Are TrickySacramento Bee – October 25, 2013
  17. While Congress Stalls, the Golden State Moves Forward – commentary by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D) – Santa Barbara Independent – November 5, 2013
  18. California Governor Brown: A Great Power Has To Find Some Unity – NPR – November 6, 2013
  19. California, Here We Come? – column by Paul Krugman – New York Times – November 24, 2013 (praise of Covered California)

After November 23, 2013

Jerry Brown’s Revenge – commentary by Tim Egan – New York Times – March 6, 2014

Palmy Days for Jerry – commentary by Maureen Dowd – New York Times – March 22, 2014

Jerry Brown’s 4th Act – Politico – October 28, 2014

 

A Former Mayor of a Southern California City Provides an Intellectual Argument for City Charters and Local Government Authority

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In today’s San Diego Union-Tribune (February 19, 2013), former Murrieta Mayor Doug McAllister calls for California cities to enact charters for local home rule and protection from intrusive centralized state government. See Reasons to Consider Becoming a Charter City.

I like McAllister’s philosophical approach based on federalism. He writes the following:

One of the main debates defining the distinction between the ideological left and right is the positioning of power in governing…the left believes the power to reach that goal radiates from top to bottom, while the right reverses that flow.

Then he explains the practical policy consequences of centralized, top-down governance:

…the ability of local government to protect the best interests of its residents has been consistently undermined…Today, the ability of local cities to enhance their quality of life is at significant risk.

McAllister reports correctly that numerous general law cities in California are planning to ask their citizens to enact a charter in the 2014 elections:

Many cities in our region are serious about finding ways to protect us all from a centralized government gone wild. One avenue their leaders are seriously pondering is the possibility of becoming a charter city. Most municipalities are born as general law cities. It appears that by reorganizing as a charter city, a practice not uncommon as cities mature, not only could there be certain protections against Sacramento’s agenda, but city leaders will perhaps have significantly more tools in their economic development tool belt with which to enhance our quality of life.

McAllister also warns against a defensive, campaign-oriented strategy of trying to include too many provisions in a proposed charter to try to neutralize specific attacks (from the Left, of course) against the concept:

It is said that a camel is a horse put together by a committee. If any city wants to become a charter city, they need to avoid the temptation to build a committee-created camel, cramming protections against every contingency, real or perceived, into the charter, inviting the crisis of unintended consequences. Less (camel) is more (horse). The focus of this effort should be to see how short they can make the document, not how long.

I agree with this approach. The Left (that is, unions and every other organization that wants to centralize and concentrate political power at the state capitol) will attack a charter proposal no matter what it contains. For example, they will always cite a mismanaged charter city (such as Bell) as an example of home rule failure while ignoring solid, responsible local governance in most of California’s other 121 charter cities. (They want all cities to submit to the governance of the mismanaged state government, which they control!)

For example, see how a Twitter account portraying itself as “MOTR Politics” (Middle of the Road Politics) suggests that the bankrupt City of San Bernardino needs to repeal its charter and operate instead under the wise, steady hand of the California State Legislature:

The only way to remove personalities & politics is for SB City to follow the same laws as most other cities. http://www.sbsun.com/opinions/ci_22605107/city-charter-is-ripe-reform …

It’s possible the City of San Bernardino could actually use its charter authority to help extract itself from its financial difficulties, if its elected city council had the political will and skill to challenge public employee unions. The Manhattan Institute’s City Journal reported in an August 17, 2012 article The Problem and Promise of Charter Cities that charter authority for cities such as San Bernardino can be beneficial or harmful, depending on who is in control:

Just as charters can make cities worse, they may be able to make them better—it all depends on who’s in charge. [Mayor Patrick] Morris and some other city leaders have tried to put charter reform on the local ballot, hoping to abolish the sections that inflate city workers’ pay and empower the city attorney to battle the mayor.

Such change apparently does not appeal to MOTR Politics, which seems to favor the public employee unions that apparently absorb more than 75% of the city’s general fund, as shown by these Tweets:

SB City Police & Fire unions claim SB City has abused bankruptcy & will ask bankruptcy court for permission to sue. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/13/usa-sanbernardino-unions-hearing-idUSL1N0BCIMR20130213 …

Another group – it’s police officers – will oppose SB City’s eligibility for bankruptcy protections. http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_22576996/police-seeking-lawsuit-against-san-bernardino …

SB City returns to U.S. Bankruptcy Court today at 1:30 PM where it will battle CalPERS. Is the city serious? http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_22569576/san-bernardino-filing-defends-its-level-finance-department …

Instead of responding to the arguments from advocates of oppressive and intrusive government, charter supporters need to base their arguments on the benefits of local control and the need for appropriate checks and balances against a state legislature under one-party supermajority control.

For more information on why your city should enact a charter and free itself from the grip of the state legislature and the special interest groups entrenched at the capitol, see these resources:

Charter Cities – League of California Cities

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Quest for the Presidency: San Diego Union Leader Lorena Gonzalez Announces Run for California State Assembly

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Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) is the Secretary-Treasurer and CEO for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO. When I first started seeing the tweets about her campaign for California State Assembly, I figured it was some good-natured ribbing from her San Diego chums, probably inspired by the Sunday, December 2, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune profile of her. (See Democrats’ Not-So-Secret Weapon: Labor Leader Lorena Gonzalez Made Her Mark as a Key Player in November’s Election Victories and my December 2, 2012 blog post Another California Union Leader on the Way to Confirming the Ancient Proverb: The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall.)

I was wrong! She is ready and eager to join her Democrat friends in the state legislative supermajority. See the campaign web site for Lorena Gonzalez for Assembly 2016. There is already a donation page for your convenience, as she expects to be in the Assembly in 2013.

The 80th Assembly District is likely to be vacant next spring if Assemblyman Ben Hueso (who was elected to the Assembly in 2010 while on the San Diego City Council) wins a special election for the State Senate seat being vacated by Juan Vargas, another former San Diego City Council member who was just elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to replace Bob Filner, who is now Mayor of San Diego.

Lorena Gonzalez barely lost a special election in January 2006 against Republican Kevin Faulconer for a vacant seat on the San Diego City Council. (Faulconer is still on the city council.)

Please continue to recognize that Lorena Gonzalez earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Stanford University, a Master’s Degree from Georgetown University, and a Law Degree from UCLA.

News Media Coverage:

Labor Leader Gonzalez Aims for Assembly: Her Announcement Is the Latest Domino in a Democratic ShuffleSan Diego Union-Tribune – December 5, 2012

 
Labor Leader Gonzalez Aims for Assembly – North County Times – December 5, 2012
 
Lorena Gonzalez to Run for State Assembly – KNSD Channel 7 News – December 5, 2012
 
Morning Report: Lorena Gonzalez Seeks Assembly Seat – Voice of San Diego – December 6, 2012
 
Vargas DominosSan Diego Rostra – March 27, 2012 (an accurate prediction)

A Proposed Strategic Plan for the California Republican Party in 2013-2014

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Like many Republican activists, I’ve read just about every opinion piece and news article published on the web since November 6, 2012 about how the California Republican Party or the political Center-Right can become “relevant” in California.

Many of those pieces were useless or insulting, but apparently they were effective in convincing some Republican politicians that people need to give more of their money to the government in the form of taxes. (These tax increases are referred to as “investing.”)

In contrast, the most valuable piece I read was How Conservatives Can Win in Blue-State America: Lessons from South Africa’s Opposition. It lists ten strategies that have allowed the Democratic Alliance opposition party to build a diverse coalition of supporters and win elections without compromising Center-Right principles. The first strategy: Do not compromise basic principles; instead, show how they are relevant to all.

The commentary within California that has probably generated the most debate among Republican activists was in the November 16 Orange County RegisterBuilding ‘New’ Republican Party in California by San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who narrowly lost the race for Mayor of San Diego on November 6. Regrettably, activists seem to be more concerned about whether or not this piece indicates DeMaio is going to run for statewide office than about whether or not his proposed five-point approach is correct:

  1. Become the party of reform (focus on fiscal responsibility)
  2. Commit to making government work again (better performance of existing programs)
  3. Move beyond “no” and offer real solutions (offer credible alternatives for governance)
  4. Become a party of inclusion (specifically address diverse groups beyond the typical older white voter base)
  5. Court the next generation (adopt to new methods of communication)

I have developed my own ideas, which generally match DeMaio’s proposals and the proposals in the South Africa article.

1. Promote a Specific Alternative Program of Governance

As of November 26, 2012, the California State Assembly Republican Caucus has issued two press releases since the day after November 6 election: (1) Connie Conway was unanimously re-elected as Assembly Minority Leader on November 8; and (2) Connie Conway issued a statement on November 20 about the Israel-Hamas conflict.

This is not a promising start toward ending the era of legislative irrelevance. Many California Republicans are wondering if the party remnant in the state legislature is ever going to explain its vision for governing the state differently than the Democrats. Why is this so difficult? Is it a lack of principles, a lack of leadership, or a lack of cooperation?

Here’s a sample alternative program I developed without help from professional consultants:

How Republicans Would Govern California Differently Than Democrats

Reform the workings of the state legislature so it serves the People of California and not special interest groups

1. Put the Legislature under the same employment laws, contracting laws, and public records access laws as apply to the rest of the people of California.

2. End the disorder and lack of accountability at the Legislature by allowing the people of California to adequately review proposed laws, end the notorious “gut-and-amend” process, end vote switching after votes are closed, require legislators to be present in committee for votes to count, and alternate annual legislative sessions between budget sessions and general sessions.

3. Strictly limit the ability of special interest groups, including lobbyist employers, to give gifts to members of the Legislature.

Slow the growing debt burden on future generations

4. Require the ballot language of bond measures to indicate the current bond debt of the government entity, estimate the total debt from the proposed bond measure (including financial transaction fees and interest), and explain that selling a bond means borrowing money and paying it back with interest through tax increases.

5. Pass a Taxpayer Information Act – similar to the Social Security annual reports, annual reports would be provided by the state in early October to households, corporations, vehicle owners, and property owners indicating the total amount paid for the past five years in taxes and fees to the State of California and California local governments.

6.  Require the executive branch to report annually to the Legislature and the People of California about the state’s financial liabilities, require the executive branch to provide proposed budgets for the upcoming two fiscal years that honestly establish the amount to be collected from taxes and fees and amount to be saved by spending reductions, and ensure that revenues equal expenditures in proposed and enacted budgets.

Encourage economic growth and job creation by stopping schemes that impose excessive and unnecessary costs when doing business in California

7. Reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the pure intent of Governor Ronald Reagan by ensuring public involvement is strictly confined to legitimate environmental impacts.

8. Freeze all new regulations for six months and enact a package of reforms that allow a reasonable amount of time for regulatory compliance, properly evaluate regulatory costs to businesses and taxpayers, and end regulations that are ineffective or show an absurd disparity between costs and benefits.

9. Discourage foolish, frivolous, and harassing lawsuits by enacting a measured and reasonable “loser pays” rule for the courts.

Bring more accountability to powerful government entities with appointed boards

10. Restrict the number and power of joint powers agencies and other regional government entities to which board members are appointed.

11. Reduce the number of state boards and commissions and establish a system for greater legislative oversight of regulations enacted by these boards and commissions.

12. Set reasonable minimum standards for joint powers agencies and other regional government entities concerning meeting notices and public information on the web.

2. Establish or Cultivate a California Intellectual Policy Center (Think Tank)

At this time, the most visible and influential free market-oriented policy institute for California governance is based in Manhattan. As long as California lacks a homegrown, aggressive, relevant policy institute to develop and promote Center-Right principles and applications for the state, professional political campaign consultants will fill the vacuum and set the policy agenda for the California Republican Party.

3. Expand Republican Speech – Overhaul the Use of Web and Social Media

Why did the California Republican Party web site focus on the shortcomings of President Obama, when California was never expected to be a competitive state in the presidential election? Why is there virtually no presence of state and county Republican Party officials on Twitter? Why are many county Republican Party web sites so amateurish?

Many activists in the California Republican Party are traditionalists who are wary of the triviality and foolishness posted on the web and circulated through trendy social media. But earlier generations recoiled against radio and then television, and then they adopted to the new ways of communication.

The Republican Party of San Diego County is going in the right direction in effectively using the web and social media as a communications tool. Someone needs to establish web sites for all of the state and local Republican Party organizations, keep them updated regularly with relevant and factual state and local content, and inform the public through social media when there is fresh content. And impose a moratorium on bashing President Obama – even Republicans are tired of it.

4. Focus on Federalism: Local Government Should Serve as the Base of Opposition

The California Republican Party should encourage Republicans in local government to develop, propose, and implement standards and models of governance that provide the best quality public services to citizens at the best price for taxpayers. This will create a dramatic contrast with local governments run by Democrats that will file for bankruptcy in 2013 and 2014.

In addition, Republicans should encourage cities to seek or exercise their constitutional right to govern their own municipal affairs through a charter, thus freeing themselves from the costly mandates of the state legislature. There should be 30 proposed city charters on the June 2014 ballot for California voters to consider. Republicans in California’s current 121 charter cities should use their local governing authority in innovative and creative ways.

City Charters: A Check and Balance Against Overzealous Lawmaking in a One-Party State: My Column Featured Today in www.FlashReport.org

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Today’s www.FlashReport.org (November 16, 2012) features my column entitled “City Charters: A Check and Balance Against Overzealous Lawmaking in a One-Party State.”

I introduce the issue in this way:

California’s Left has attained its long-desired supermajority in the California State Legislature and solidified its power by effectively nullifying structural checks and balances. Now it’s time for citizens who support economic and personal freedom to start using previously overlooked constitutional protections embedded in the federalist structure of our republic. One of these protections is Article XI of the California Constitution, which allows a city to enact its own mini-constitution, called a charter.

See my extensive reporting on the charter city movement in California.

California’s Charter Cities Battle the State Legislature: Political Columnist Dan Walters Ties Together Project Labor Agreements, Prevailing Wage, and Public Employee Pension Reform

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ATTENTION: See my latest, updated, comprehensive compilation of news coverage concerning the July 2, 2012 California Supreme Court decision in State Building and Construction Trades Council of California v. City of Vista upholding the right of charter cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates here.


It’s hard to cajole overworked newspaper reporters to research and write about government-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wage”) and Project Labor Agreements, and it’s hard to get editors to see value in covering these issues for their readership. The state and local labor issues monitored and reported by the Dayton Public Policy Institute cost a lot of money for California taxpayers, but these issues are also relatively difficult to understand and fairly technical and arcane in nature.

That’s why I was thrilled this morning to see the excellent column from respected Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters summarizing the current strained relationship between the California State Legislature and California’s 121 charter cities. He manages to tie together Project Labor Agreements, state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wage”), and public employee pension reform in the context of what cities can do to assert their local home rule authority through charters.

Newspapers throughout the state of California publish Dan Walters’ columns.

Dan Walters: City-State Relations Take a Turn – Sacramento Bee (columnist) – July 9, 2012

“The vast majority of Californians have an unfavorable view of their state legislature – and for good reason.”

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In today’s FlashReport on California’s Most Significant Political News, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) gives her concise perspective on the quick defeat of her three “good government” bills to address what she called “malpractice” in the California State Legislature. The bills were Assembly Bill 1946, Assembly Bill 1947, and Assembly Bill 1948. As reported on this web site, I submitted letters to legislative committees in support of these three bills and testified in committee hearings for two of them. All three bills were defeated on party-line votes: Republicans in support, Democrats opposed.

See the opinion piece here: California Democrats Oppose Open and Transparent Government.

Read my letter in support of Assembly Bill 1946, my letter in support of Assembly Bill 1947, and my letter in support of Assembly Bill 1948.

I would like to believe that Republicans would run the state legislature differently if they were in control. And maybe it would be run differently if someone with solid principles was selected to be Assembly Speaker. But the experience of Republicans winning control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 after 40 years out of power does not build a lot of confidence. (I was a legislative assistant working in the House at the time of the 1994 election.)

Upon taking control, Republicans proposed getting rid of the 10 elevator operators in the House office buildings (out of 22 total in the U.S. Capitol complex) who pushed the buttons for members of Congress and sometimes for the staff and the public. This would have saved taxpayers $263,000 annually and eliminated an obvious symbol of elitist pomp.

On June 22, 1995, Congressman Jon Christensen (R-Nebraska) irked many of his peers by offering an amendment to eliminate the House elevator operators, saying the following: “The time has come for Members of Congress to start pushing their own buttons. Yes, that grievous, arduous task of pushing your own elevator button. No, my amendment does not propose to eliminate elevators, nor does my amendment require the Members to take the steps from here out. All my amendment requires is that we begin pushing our own elevator button.”

The subsequent debate on the House floor appears to take place in an alternative universe. See page H6222 of the June 22, 1995 Congressional Record, here.

As you might guess, many Republicans joined Democrats to defeat the amendment solidly, on a 177-246 vote. Business as usual was already taking effect, almost eight months after the elections. The button pushing (in the elevators) continues today at the U.S. Capitol complex.

Shameful! Democrats Reject Assemblywoman Shannon Grove’s Bill to Codify Court Decision Allowing Public Access to Certain Legislative Records

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I’m 3 for 3 on guessing the outcome of the triad of bills introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) to reform the operations of the California State Legislature. On April 26, the Assembly Rules Committee rejected Assembly Bill 1946 on a 5-4 vote, with five Democrats opposed, four Republicans in support, and two Democrats not voting.

The bill was supported by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Dayton Public Policy Institute, a project of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC. (See my support letter here.) I was not able to attend the committee hearing to speak as a witness for AB 1946 because I was in Orange County on other business at that time.

This bill would have codified the December 2, 2011 Sacramento County Superior Court decision in Los Angeles Times Communications LLC v California Legislature (Case Number: 34-2011-80000929). It would have added to state law a statement of the court that “The language of the Open Records Act at issue here reflects a strong presumption in favor of public access to legislative records.” AB 1946 also would have added to state law the court’s statement that records that “reflect how Assembly money is budgeted and spent” are public records. According to the court, these records “indisputably contain information relating to the conduct of the public’s business” which is “critical to an understanding of the Legislature’s operations.”

The committee’s bill analysis for AB 1946 was essentially useless, although it suggested a clarification to the bill language that alluded to the practice of moving staff around from committees to personal offices to avoid budget restrictions.

News Media Coverage:

Assembly Kills Bill to Require Disclosure of Member Budgets – Sacramento Bee – April 26, 2012

Assembly Scuttles Bill to Make Budget Disclosure Permanent – Sacramento Bee – April 27, 2012

Assembly Errs in Keeping Its Process Closed – Bakersfield Californian (editorial) – April 30, 2012

Sacramento, A Place of No Surprises – Santa Maria Times (editorial) – May 1, 2012

Here’s a powerful excerpt from the Bakersfield Californian editorial:

One of the bills that died was an attempt by Bakersfield Assemblywoman Shannon Grove to stipulate in the Legislative Open Records Act that member-by-member budgets for individual lawmakers and their offices are public record. Grove’s bill came in response to a court decision in which a judge ruled legislative budgets are public records despite the Legislature’s long insistence otherwise. The Democratic-led committee said the judge’s decision was enough; the bill wasn’t necessary.

But why not codify the judge’s decision into law? The Legislative Open Records Act has long been regarded as a joke among open government experts and Grove’s bill could have helped bolster its legitimacy. It’s hard to see any political motivation on Grove’s part here, other than her well-documented disdain for big government and willingness to shine the light on those who take their duties as stewards of the public trust lightly. Her bill deserved more consideration and it’s a shame it was given short-shrift.

And an excerpt from the Santa Maria Times editorial:

The author of the disclosure bill, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, admitted she filed the legislation knowing it had little chance of survival — which tells you a lot about how little confidence she had in her colleagues’ ability or willingness to be honest about how they spend your tax dollars.

It’s interesting to note that Assemblywoman Grove, who tried to launch the legislation mentioned above to require full financial disclosure, is also helping the group trying to promote the part-time Legislature notion. Well, at least we know one person in Sacramento is focused on making a better government.

What a Place! More Bills to Clean Up the California State Legislature

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On Thursday, April 26, the California State Assembly’s Rules Committee will consider the third of a triad of bills from Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) to reform the operations of the California State Legislature.

Assembly Bill 1946 deals with public access to records of the legislature. It would add language to the Legislative Open Records Act (Government Code Section 9070-9080) to state that this law shall be construed with a strong presumption in favor of public access to legislative records. It also states that a record that reflects the approved budget allocation for a legislator or the legislator’s office is not exempt from mandatory disclosure under the Legislative Open Records Act.

Here is my support letter for this bill, which cites the failure of the legislature to provide records indicating which legislator gave the secret unilateral directive for an “all-union workforce” to build the Capitol Safety and Security Improvements Project in 2005:

Dayton Letter in Support of Assembly Bill 1946

This 2011 report from the Pacific Research Institute (based in San Francisco) discusses problems with government compliance under the Legislative Open Records Act and Public Records Act (Ralph M. Brown Act), and it cites some of my difficulties getting public records when I was employed by Associated Builders and Contractors of California:

Bringing More Sunshine to California: How to Expand Open Government in the Golden State

Assembly Bill 1946 codifies the December 2, 2011 decision of a Sacramento County Superior Court judge in Los Angeles Times v. California Legislature. The Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee – both members of the California Newspaper Publishers Association – sued the legislature to get legislative office budget records after the legislature refused the requests of Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) and various newspapers for these records.

This controversy began in July 2011 when Assemblyman Portantino claimed that his office was being unfairly deprived of extra funding for excessive office expenses because he was the only Democrat to vote against the 2011-12 state budget. (He opposed education cuts, prison realignment, and elimination of redevelopment agencies.) Portantino was upset about the possibility of having to furlough his office staff, and he tried to obtain budget records for other offices to prove that many offices besides his own spent more than their official allotment set by the Assembly Rules Committee. When the legislature finally released the records, those records indicated that Portantino spent the most on personal office staff. But a Palo Alto group called California Common Sense analyzed the records and concluded in a report that the information had been manipulated to falsely smear Portantino, whom they claimed was actually ranked 18th.

See these Los Angeles Times articles about the controversy:

Portantino Accuses Democrats of Reprisal for Budget Opposition – July 12, 2011

California Legislature Releases Members’ Spending Records – August 27, 2011

Judge Rules State Assembly Must Disclose Lawmakers’ Budget Records – December 5, 2011

Also, see this interesting commentary by Steve Greenhut in www.CalWatchdog.com:

Portantino Late Convert to Openness Issue – August 29, 2011

Also, see this Los Angeles Times article about how Democrat leaders in the legislature punish Democrat mavericks and troublesome Republicans:

State Lawmakers Toe the Line or Risk Losing Their Parking Spots – August 1, 2011

I predict that Assemblywoman Shannon Grove will soon suffer at the hands of Democrat leaders for calling for a part-time legislature and backing up her argument with her triad of three bills to reform the California State Legislature. But right now legislative leaders have to deal with Assemblyman Portantino again for introducing these three reform bills:

Assembly Committee Kills Portantino’s Whistleblower Protections for Legislative Employees – Again – April 24, 2012 Press Release

Portantino Wants Accurate Reporting of Outside Compensation for Public Officials – April 17, 2012 Press Release

Portantino’s Bill to End Special Perk for Legislator’s Vanity License Plates Passes Key Committee – April 16, 2012 Press Release

Hijacking of Legislative Reform Bill: “I Haven’t Seen Anything Like This Since West Wing”

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On Wednesday, April 18, the California State Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee used rude, underhanded tactics to thwart a proposal by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) to require the California State Legislature to abide by the same wage and hour laws that it imposes on private employers in the state.

These wage and hour laws include standard overtime after eight hours in a day, meal and rest periods, vacation and sick pay, and other terms and conditions of work regulated through the state’s 17 Industrial Wage Orders. Business groups in California such as the California Chamber of Commerce often note that California hurts its competitiveness by setting a standard eight-hour day before overtime for private employees, while 47 other states and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act set a standard 40-hour week before overtime. (Nevada and Alaska set eight-hour days before overtime for private employees in certain circumstances.) See a chart compiled by law firms of state overtime laws here or here.

“I haven’t seen anything like this since West Wing,” said someone who was sitting in the audience when the committee proposed and approved on a party-line 5-2 vote a hostile amendment to Assembly Bill 1948 without the approval of Assemblywoman Grove. That amendment reflected suggestions in the official bill analysis written by Democrat committee staff to require the state’s private employers to provide paid sick leave and paid bereavement days and allow legislative employees to organize into unions by signing union authorization cards (card check). Assemblyman Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga/Redlands) declared that the amendment broke Assembly parliamentary rules, but Chairman Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland) rebuffed his contention.

Committee Democrats never addressed the rationale behind the legislative exemption itself from the state’s wage and hour laws. As the only person who dared to speak as a witness in support of Assembly Bill 1948, I asked that question and then suggested an answer: the legislature enjoys having the flexibility to establish its own working relationships with employees.

The Sacramento Bee reported on the action:

Shannon Grove Says Dems Hijacked Her “Good Government” Bill – Sacramento Bee – posted April 19, 2012

See the video of the hearing here (go to 03:42:30 of the video):

California State Assembly Labor & Employment Committee April 18, 2012 05h 01m     Video

The Democrat majority’s handling of Assembly Bill 1948 is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with the entrenched majority at the Capitol. Is this any way to run an airline?