California budget: A sign that the Golden State is finally on the right track?
Several voter-approved propositions helped resolve the typical California budget dysfunction this year. With new reforms, a new budget, and fix-it Gov. Jerry Brown, the future of the Golden State could be brightening.
(Page 3 of 3)
"When the conversation started, the citizen attendees were very cynical and negative, but by the end they were all smiles, totally confident that the process was going to make a difference," says Ms. Valentine.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The 'Top 2' primary
California's new "Top 2" primary is seen almost as a companion to redistricting, moderating candidates in a different way. Instead of candidates appealing to the poles of their parties to win a partisan nomination, they will have to consider moving to the center, where the bulk of the electorate is.
"The idea of the Top 2 primary is that it will encourage candidates to look beyond their parties' base voters and seek to build a broad coalition right from the start," says Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. "And to do so, the theory goes, candidates must be more flexible and pragmatic."
Voters' reform binge might not be finished. An initiative to amend California's term-limits rule will appear on the next state ballot.
"Now that people have had a chance to really examine what term limits have done to this state, they see two problems," says Valentine of California Forward. "One is that legislators are not there long enough to understand the complexity of such issues as the budget, or water, or education, or health care.
"The other thing," she adds, "is that they create a revolving door of people coming in, and before they have a chance to establish expertise or seniority they are already looking to their next election or trying to appeal to their next constituency."
The new initiative would apply a blanket 12-year limit on anyone in the Assembly, Senate, or both.
Current rules adopted by voters in 1990 limit members of the Assembly to six years and members of the state Senate to eight years.
The proposed reform had 68 percent approval among likely voters, according to a March PPIC poll. Yet, to some, that voter authority itself is the root of California's problem. Unless the state tackles reform of the citizen-initiative process, big problems will linger, says Jessica Levinson, political reform director for the Center for Governmental Studies.
"A lot of these are just incremental changes in the right direction, but not the fundamental, complete overhaul many wanted," she says, noting that the idea for a constitutional convention to overhaul the state constitution failed last year. "We have the most generous ballot initiative [process] in the country, and it has gotten us into trouble because a lot of stuff passes without due deliberation."