Sunday, July 04, 2010

CODEPENDENCE DAY: In California, every state election is another example of political dysfunction

LA Daily News Editorial

July 4, 2010 -- FACED with another year of crisis in Sacramento, another year of blown budget deadlines and probably another year of IOUs that make our state the punch line of bad government jokes, Californians can be forgiven for their cynicism

Unfortunately, that frustration with state government manifests in some self-destructive ways. Voter turnout is way too low. And when voters do get to the polls, they're faced with a barrage of intricate and often conflicting initiatives written by special interests and so-called reformers.

This November is no different. In addition to the many candidate races, the state ballot will be chock full - once again - of initiatives that have the ability to fundamentally change California. For the better or worse? Only time will tell.

Oil companies are trying to roll back the state's law to reduce greenhouse gases. Pot advocates want to legalize marijuana. One billionaire wants to roll back voter-approved redistricting reform, while another billionaire wants to extend redistricting reform to congressional districts.

The Daily News will cover these and all the other initiatives in-depth before the November election.

For now, the focus is on two ballot measures that appear indicative of California's government and budget dysfunction.

  • Proposition 25 would change the requirement to pass a state budget in the Legislature from two-thirds to a simple majority. And state legislators wouldn't get paid for every day past June 15 that the budget is late.
  •  Proposition 26 would increase the required legislative vote from a simple majority to two-thirds for approving fees and charges.

These are state constitutional amendments that are clearly a reaction to the budget debacle in Sacramento. And that's exactly why they're a problem. These type of agenda-driven, of-the-moment measures tend to solve one problem and create several more.

Californians have gotten in the bad habit of legislating through the ballot box, and we've paid the price. One reason the state budget process is so screwy is that voters have passed various initiatives that tie legislators' hands in how they raise and spend money.

But voters can hardly be blamed. The public is disgusted with the legislators and the governor who aren't doing their jobs. Politicians know that, thanks to the state's initiative process, they can abdicate their responsibilities to voters - then blame the electorate for the resulting problems. It's a no-win codependent relationship that has failed California time and again.

The solution has to be comprehensive, perhaps in the form of a constitutional convention. For now, with state governance in such a sorry state, the mess is left to us voters.

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