Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sacramento Bee: Proposed initiative would create part-time legislature

Part-time status proposed for California Legislature

Published: Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

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California's Legislature would become part-time under a constitutional amendment proposed Friday by a Republican lawmaker and the head of a political watchdog group.
The measure calls for the nation's most populous state to meet three months per year – and for lawmakers' pay to be cut from $7,940 per month to $1,500 per month – or $18,000 annually.

Republican Assemblywoman Shannon Grove of Bakersfield is teaming with Ted Costa of People's Advocate in hopes of gathering 807,615 voter signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The proposal was filed Friday with the state attorney general's office, a first step toward launching a campaign.

California has had a full-time Legislature since voter passage of a constitutional amendment in 1966.
Costa said the Legislature is dominated by advocates for organized labor and "if that's the game you want to play, we'll just send you home."

"We'll see if you can make it on $1,500 a month. … I imagine there will be an awful lot of crying in the Legislature when they realize this will be on the ballot," Costa said.

John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez, said California has one of the world's largest economies and deserves full-time leadership. He also took a jab at Grove's job performance.

"This is an irresponsible proposal coming from someone who hasn't put forward any real solutions to our long-term challenges," Vigna said.

Opponents say switching the Legislature to part-time would increase lawmakers' reliance on lobbyists, expand the power of the Governor's Office and courts, and weaken lawmakers' oversight of education, health care, law enforcement and other vital public services.

The proposed ballot measure would:

• Have lawmakers meet for 30 days in January each year, recess, then reconvene in May for 60 days.

• Allow the governor to call special sessions to address extraordinary issues, but limit them to 15 days.

• Not allow legislators to accept state employment or appointment to a state post while serving in the Capitol or for five years afterward.

• Require the Legislature to adopt a balanced, two-year budget by June 15 of each odd-numbered year – and to forfeit salary and per diem for each day it is late.

Costa and Grove declined to identify financial backers Friday or their campaign's monetary goal.

Only 10 states pay lawmakers as if they work 80 percent or more of a full-time job, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of those states are among the nation's most populous, including New York and Florida.

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