Daily Archives: May 21, 2009

A Dirty Dozen Reforms for Reinventing California

Main DogAs the dust settles and legislators and the governor peer up and out of their foxholes, let’s hope they see the citizenry circulating petitions for gutsy reform initiatives. The system is broken and beyond repair. Time to tear down the entire house and build a new one from a new foundation up. So checking politics at the door, here are a dozen nakedly brash ideas — old and new — that should be on the table.  

(1)  Establish a Constitutional Convention that is not beholden, created or otherwise connected with the Legislature or Executive Branch. The recommendations of which would ultimately be put into a ballot initiative. Reform measures the convention should recommend and/or consider:  

(2) Reducing the size of legislative districts, increasing number of legislators to achieve greater accountability (see earlier post)

(3) Eliminating term limits

 (4) Weighing pros and cons of a part-time legislature

(5) Eliminating the two-thirds majority vote on budget matters

(6) Mandating a two-year budget cycle and level of rainy-day cash reserves

(7)  Pegging expansion of state spending to inflation or another reasonable benchmark level; maybe tacking on a few percentage points; but basically establishing strict spending limits coupled with a mechanism for flexibility 

(8) Examining the evisceration of all sacred cows, especially Prop. 13 and Prop. 98

(9)  Investigating what responsibilities and funding should be returned to local governments, which are by definition closer to the people they serve 

(10) Mulligans. As naive as it may be, we need to find a way to get out from under expensive contactual obligations and mandated funding for programs. Can an initiative wipe the slate clean so we can start with a clean slate — i.e. – renegotiating everything in terms of benefits, salaries, services, etc.? 

(11) Requiring a boot camp for new legislators prior to assuming office so they aren’t learning the basics on the job

(12) Creating a legislative process that isn’t a joke. Specifically we need to ensure exhaustive discussion of complex issues. Too many times we see enormously critical decisions made with just “two minutes for each side” to present their positions in policy committees. This is an insult to the democratic process and irresponsible. Californians deserve better. 

The Blue Dog totally gets the latest spasm of voter anger. But it’s not enough anymore to simply stew. Let’s do something titanic and constructive with all the vitriol at our disposal. Let’s reinvent the business of government from the ground up.

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