A Broken Process
Anarchy: [an-er-kee]-noun 1. A state of society without government or law. 2. Sacramento on the last night of session.
Where do I start? No State Budget?, Record High Unemployment?, Massive State Debt?, Businesses and Jobs Leaving the State?, Dysfunctional State Legislature?, Unaccountable State Bureaucrats? Pick one – anyone – and your blood will start boiling.
If you had the pleasure of watching the final days of the State Legislature on August 30th and 31st, you watched a hurricane blow through the State Capitol, with hundreds of bills (legislation) being shoved through the process. Rules were waived, procedures were set aside, public hearings were held on newly drafted legislation with only a few minutes public notice – it was model of efficiency – so long as you didn’t care about content, fairness, public access, or say – good government. A good “non-partisan” account of this chaotic finish can be seen in this LA Times article.
In one committee I serve on, we had a hastily called meeting to hear several re-written or amended bills. One bill dealt with a very significant change in wagering (betting) at horse racing tracks in California. The Author of the bill was on hand to testify. The supporters and opponents testified. Funny thing – for those of us who were expected to vote on the proposed legislation – we didn’t even have a written copy of the bill to examine and ask questions about! Some legislators liked what they “heard” and took a leap of faith in support. I just couldn’t do it. I refused to even vote. Maybe I’m thick-headed or stubborn or both, but we all deserve better from our government.
That is why I continue to push my reforms to the legislative process, to require that bills be publicly available (and available to the legislators) at least 24 hours before a vote, and to end midnight sessions where important decisions are being made while the citizens sleep.
Now some of you will fire-off a nasty-gram to me stating “Who cares, you should be focused on the budget.” Trust me – I get it. But I would argue that the root of most of our problems in our state can be traced back to the dysfunction of our State government and State Legislature. We spend very few hours throughout the year actually investigating how wisely your tax dollars are being spent by state agencies on state programs. Regretfully we spend more time listening to those who want to create and impose new regulations, and less time listening to those who want to create and keep good paying private sector jobs in California. As an added bonus, we also spend a fair amount of time telling counties and cities how they are to conduct the “peoples business” (via mandates & regulations), and then of course the Legislature exempts itself from those very same rules. We cannot have good outcomes when our process is broken from the beginning.
In closing, some of you want to know when a State Budget is going to be adopted. I initially thought a budget deal would have been done by early August. Now I have to say I don’t know. A revised version of the Governor’s proposed budget (with no increased taxes) was rejected on party-line votes on August 31st. A counter budget proposal (with billions in new taxes to follow) was also rejected on August 31st. A few months ago I laughed at the conspiracy theory that a state budget would not be approved until after the November election. I’m not laughing anymore.