What We Are Saying
State Legislators Must Govern for California.
States and their localities have more responsibility for the funding and implementation of domestic policy than does the federal government and at least as much influence over jobs and economic growth. As a result, when it comes to jobs, education, health, safety, infrastructure and transportation, little matters more than state legislatures.
This is especially true in California, where the actions of a single state legislator can have more impact on the daily lives of Californians than even a US senator or congressman. In California’s system, each state legislator has enormous power.
But Californians aren’t paying attention. Even though there are only 120 California state legislators, few Californians know the names of their representatives much less how those legislators vote or the alliances they keep.
If they did, they’d surely be surprised to learn about Democratic legislators who, while publicly vowing support for jobs, colleges, human services, environmental protections and parks, vote adversely to those priorities in order to boost the fortunes of narrow special interests. And about Republican legislators who publicly voice support for jobs but don’t support bills that would improve the employment climate if that legislation would harm a corporate interest or increase state revenues. And about legislators who don’t understand the budgets they pass, countenance misleading accounting, and choose not to address the state’s most pressing problems in order to focus on special or personal interests.
Interested Californians would also learn that state legislators have the tools they need to solve California’s pressing problems. Legislators love to complain that voter initiatives handcuff them but no initiative stops them from improving our economic climate, reforming our tax system, ending our structural budget deficit, fixing our pension problem, properly funding our colleges, parks and environmental protection, appropriately compensating government employees, raising revenues if and when needed, reforming determinate prison sentencing, making government more efficient, and much more.
Upon closer inspection, Californians would learn that the missing ingredient is courage. In the case of Democrats, courage means the willingness to buck narrow special interests seeking ever-greater shares of government spending at the expense of programs, taxpayers and private-sector job growth. In the case of Republicans, courage means the willingness to buck no-tax groups who, even when presented with all the reforms they seek, refuse to acknowledge that sometimes more revenue for the government can produce better outcomes. And in the case of all legislators, courage means an unshakeable dedication to honest budgets, truthful accounting, open government and governing for the people rather than for personal gain or narrow interests.
Citizens Must Support Courageous Legislators.
Fortunately there are three reasons for optimism. First, starting in 2012, state legislative elections will be determined under California’s new Top Two Primary and Citizens Redistricting Commission reforms, improving the odds of success for courageous problem solvers not beholden to special interests. Second, because some of those legislative races are determined by relatively small numbers of voters and amounts of money, concentrated political spending and activity by engaged citizens can have a real impact. And third, because 100 of the 120 seats are contested every two years, change can happen quickly.
All that’s missing are courageous candidates and engaged citizens to support them. With independently-drawn election maps and open primaries, there is now an opportunity for courageous candidates to emerge. When they do, to help them win we will form an independent expenditure committee for the support of qualified candidates without regard to party or location. To help create a farm team of future state legislators, we will also support eligible local legislators, again without regard to party or location.
In the words of Edmund Burke, for evil to happen all that’s necessary is for good people to do nothing. Our state’s governance will never turn around unless the good people of California start paying attention to the legislators who run our state. Start by learning who your state representatives are and how their votes match up with their words. And then demand courageous candidates who will tell the truth and govern for California.