On their own, none of the four major proposed electoral reforms moving
through the Legislature would seem to have much of a chance. But with
separate motivations, Democratic legislative leaders are helping to guide
all of the measures through the committees, and they may all be linked
together by the time the legislative session is over.
Though still a long shot, it is increasingly likely that efforts to change
the state’s election-financing system, the state’s initiative process, the
way the state draws legislative and Congressional districts and a possible
tweak of the state term-limits law may all be folded into a monster
end-of-session package. Though the measures would not literally be linked,
there are now talks under way to try to move all four measures as a group.
Many in the activist community aren’t popping champagne corks just yet.
“I’m not holding my breath,” says Ned Wigglesworth of therestofus.org.
“There may be a handful of members on either side that actually give a crap
about this, but I don’t think the prospects of this passing are any better.
It’s on life support.”
Sen. President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, has personally vowed to move
Alan Lowenthal’s redistricting measure, SCA 3, out of the Senate. Last
month, SCA 3 cleared the Senate Elections Committee, but not without some
harsh criticism from senators Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, and Kevin
Murray, D-Culver City.
Both Murray and Romero railed against the measure during the committee
hearing, but said they were voting for the measure as a courtesy to
Lowenthal and Perata. The bill is scheduled to be heard next on April 23 in
Senate Appropriations, which Murray chairs.
“I don’t think we’ll have any problems,” said Lowenthal. “I know it wasn’t
exactly a love fest [in Senate Elections], but the pro tem is committed to
getting this bill out of the Senate.”
While Perata is twisting arms in the Senate, sources say the pro tem is
showing increasing interest in moving Assemblywoman Loni Hancock’s
public-financing measure through. The bill, AB 583, already has passed out
of the Assembly without a single Republican vote. The bill is scheduled to
be heard in Senate Elections later this month.
But just because the bill is moving doesn’t mean there’s a sudden outpouring
of support for the public financing of elections. Skeptics of public
financing may be latching on to Hancock’s measure as a way to pre-empt a
ballot initiative, pushed by the California Nurses Association.
Sponsors of the bill are still skeptical about the measure’s prospects, or
some of the motivations of some of its potential supporters. But, they say,
the climate for getting a public-finance measure through the Legislature is
better than it has ever been.
The support for two other measures is centered in the Assembly.
Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, is pushing ACA 18, which is also
backed by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson. The measure would make it
easier for the Legislature to amend ballot initiatives.
Nation’s bill is eligible to be heard on the Assembly floor.
And then, of course, there is term limits. According to sources close to all
of the measures, the push for a term limits tweak is coming from Assembly
Speaker Fabian N