Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Big Daddy,
You locked lawmakers up before to force a deal. Should we do it again?
–Bemused in Belmont

Dear Bemused,
It’s way past time. It’s time to do the deed for the sake of the budget.

When the floors get under way for Motions and Resolutions or when members introduce popular constituents or when everyone’s milling around – bam! That’s the time to let the hammer fall. In fact, lock up the constituents, too. It’ll do them good.

And don’t let anybody out until there’s a deal, and not just any deal. If Republicans won’t negotiate, don’t feed them and deny conjugal visits. If Democrats try to slip in special breaks for Hollywood or labor, force them to watch Glenn Beck reruns. Hold everybody incommunicado. Don’t let anybody bathe.

Everybody gets a spanking. This is good politics.

I locked the Assembly up overnight to force a budget deal and it did a world of good. First, it showed who was boss – me. Second, it showed that the only way to serve the public was to knock off the B.S. That was good, too. Third, it reminded everyone power only counts when you use it, and that’s a reminder that the entire Capitol needs from time to time. That was very good.

It also reminded me to take a breather after drinking my lunch at the Mirador.

I used to believe in Democracy until I became speaker. Then, I changed my world view to embrace benevolent despotism. Now, I’ve dropped “benevolent” and embraced the view of my protégé, Willie Brown, who described himself as the Ayatollah of the Assembly and he got it right.

Now we need a jailer.

The leader needs just the right balance of instilling naked fear and ministering to the members’ spiritual needs. This is the mix of successful cults and it’s the mix of an effective Assembly leader. The greatest speaker in the history of the U.S., of course, was Sam Rayburn. But he had some advantages, most importantly a lack of term limits on his members. He also was a “man of the house,” which means he – sometimes – put the interests of the House as an institution above partisanship.

We don’t have that in Sacramento because the speaker and Senate leader aren’t around long enough to become identified with the institution. One of the many downsides of term limits.

And if the leaders aren’t able to cut long-term deals, why would anybody pay attention? The Senate leader had a district bill before a committee, and the panel turned it down! When’s the last time the Senate leader lost a bill? Wonder what John Burton would have done?

Much of this will change next year, of course, when Democrats are likely to pick up enough seats to obtain two-thirds majorities in both houses which, in turn, may mean the end of budget deadlocks. That means Republicans will become irrelevant on the most important issue facing an elected official – the state budget. And there is move afoot to partially fix term limits.

But from first to last, the best way to get a quick fix is to lock them up.

One can only hope…


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