The part-time Legislature: A brake on out-of-touch politicians

Recently the idea of a part-time Legislature has caused waves in Sacramento. One legislator Assemblyman Sandre Swanson has gone as far as saying publicly that he is raising money to defeat the idea.

Imagine that, a legislator who wants to continue on as if nothing in Sacramento is broken. As if we did not have seemingly never-ending multi-billion dollar budget deficits and political gridlock.

I can see why Assemblyman Swanson is for the current system. In the first part of the year he has raised over a quarter of a million dollars from special interests to fill his political coffers. In some cases charging them as much as $3,900 to have breakfast with him in Sacramento; and lets not forget the posh golf outings to Pebble Beach and Las Vegas.

This is just one example of many where legislators are filling their campaign bank accounts and living lavish lifestyles instead of doing what they were elected to do.

These professional politicians have lost touch with the real California. Our current situation is proof that long ago they stopped listening to their constituents, but instead have been listening to the special interests and their ever-present checkbooks.

The Fair Political Practices Commission estimates that in the first six months of 2009, legislators held over 250 fundraisers and raised over $16 million dollars.

In 1966 the California legislature went to full-time status and in the subsequent years our state has changed a lot.

Our budget deficits have grown to billions-of-dollars, the federal government has been forced to administer our state prison system, and our public education system is failing to reach its potential.

I doubt these are the type of changes people had in mind when our legislature went to full-time status.

You don’t need to be a political pundit to see that our experiment with the full-time legislature has failed.

These professional politicians spend their time and our tax dollars on pointless legislation ensuring state buildings are sufficiently “feng shui”, or on the creation of endless boards and commissions like one on blueberries or on political patronage where they give former legislators do-nothing jobs that make over $100,000 a year.

None of this addresses the real problems that are facing our state but it does serve their self-interests.

The time has come to shift the balance of power in California back to the people; to return to a part-time Legislature and end the cycle of professional politicians.

By shortening the Legislative session to 90 days, we will take power away from the Sacramento professional politicians who have lost touch with reality and spend the majority of their time filling political war chests. We will return the power to the citizen legislator who actually lives and works in their communities.

It is not unprecedented in California to have a part-time Legislature. Nor would it be unique to California. Currently California is one of only seven states to have an unlimited full-time Legislature.

Since statehood, California has experimented with how frequently and for what periods of time the Legislature should meet in session.
The time has come to return to our roots and the system of government that has proven to work in the past – a citizen legislature. A legislative branch that is no longer entrenched in Sacramento; but is rooted in our states great citizenry.

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