Maybe something good is happening in Sacramento. Well, it is possible. Stranger things have happened; this is, after all, California. Much of this is what people have been asking for. Much of it is common sense. Much of it is likely to stir up a hornetâ€™s nest. It will be interesting to see how much of this gets implemented and in what form. Such is life in the Golden State.
LEGISLATIVE LEADERS AND CALIFORNIA FORWARD ANNOUNCE MAJOR STATE GOVERNMENT REFORM PACKAGE
SACRAMENTO â€“ Today Assembly Speaker John A. PÃ©rez (D-Los Angeles), Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), and representatives of California Forward announced a major package of reforms to improve government effectiveness in California, stabilize state finances, increase accountability and enhance public oversight of government operations.
For the past seven months, the Legislature has engaged in a bicameral conversation about reform through the hearings of the Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Improving State Government, chaired by Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Assemblymember Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles). Ideas discussed in the hearings were also reflected in proposals of outside groups and individuals. The reform package announced today resulted from melding the work done by the Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Improving State Government and good-government group California Forward.
The Legislature will amend the constitutional reforms proposed by California Forward into constitutional amendments in the Assembly and the Senate that will be vetted through the committee process in both houses. Additionally, the Legislature will undertake a series of institutional reforms to improve oversight, prioritize key issues and promote bipartisanship.
â€œCalifornia Forward has presented a unique opportunity to begin changing our system,â€ Steinberg said. â€œWe will fix what we can on our own and work to put constitutional change on the ballot as soon as possible.â€
â€œAs I said when I was sworn-in, this needs to be a year of real and meaningful reform,â€ PÃ©rez said. â€œThatâ€™s why I am pleased to join my colleagues and the leadership of California Forward to advance a set of proposed solutions that help make our government more accountable and effective.â€
â€œCaliforniaâ€™s fiscal crisis provides the Legislature with a historic opportunity to reform state government,â€ DeSaulnier said. â€œWe know we can’t fix everything at once – but we must get started with changes we can make on our own along with putting the best ideas of outside groups like California Forward through the legislative process.â€
â€œOur reform package is comprehensive, practical, and balanced. It advances big ideas Democrats support, major changes Republican favor, and bipartisan reforms that just make sense,â€ said Feuer. â€œThis is the kind of compromise that Californians rightly demand of us.â€
The constitutional amendments will include the following elements of the California Forward proposal:
Â· Reducing the vote threshold for passing a budget to a simple majority vote.
Â· Raising revenues would still require a 2/3 majority vote.
Â· Requiring legislators to forfeit pay and per diem if a budget is not passed on time.
Â· Giving authority to the Governor to reduce spending in the Budget Act if the Legislature does not pass a measure to address a fiscal emergency.
Â· Requiring the Governor to include longer-term budget forecasts.
Â· Limiting the use of â€œone-timeâ€ revenue for one-time purposes.
Â· Establishing performance standards for state programs that are periodically reviewed.
Â· Requiring a 2/3 vote threshold for fees that replace taxes.
Â· Requiring lawmakers to identify funding sources for bills that cost the state at least $25 million per year.
Legislative reforms include:
Â· Institutionalizing oversight of the executive branch as one of the Legislatureâ€™s most important ongoing duties.
Â· Requiring committee chairs to prioritize a small list of issues and report them to leadership.
Â· Re-invigorating the Sunset Review process to evaluate the effectiveness of boards and commissions.
Â· Reducing by 1/3 the number of bills members may carry; allow an exception of up to 2 bills to bipartisan-authored measures.
For a comprehensive description of the constitutional amendments and institutional reforms, see the attached document.
Below are links to audio from todayâ€™s news conference:
Speaker John A. PÃ©rezâ€™s opening statement at todayâ€™s news conference. (2:41)
Speaker PÃ©rez says the reform package was not developed by the state legislature. (:24)
Speaker PÃ©rez says reforming state government and dealing with the current budget deficit can be accomplished simultaneously.(:23)
Speaker PÃ©rez explains why a majority vote budget increases accountability and improves the budget process. (:22)
Speaker PÃ©rez says the reform package increases accountability and penalties for lawmakers. (:35)
Speaker PÃ©rez says the reform package will not change the tax vote threshold. (:17)
Website of Speaker John A. PÃ©rez: www.asmdc.org/speaker
Website of Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg: http://dist06.casen.govoffice.com/