Working to Fix the Structural Mess Destroying California’s State Government

This is a guest post by Senator Loni Hancock. 
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Editor’s note:  Senator Loni Hancock, who represents the 9th State Senate District, has long been an advocate for good government and transparency. As chair of the Senate Committee on Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments, she has worked tirelessly to bring accountability and governance reform to assure California meets the challenges of the 21st century.

She is passionate about campaign finance reform and getting corporate money out of the electoral process to ensure candidates and legislative leaders represent their constituents and not the big campaign contributors who buy far too much of their own self-interest at the expense of the public.

So it was a natural for Senator Hancock to be selected to serve on this newly established Assembly and Senate “Select Committee on Improving State Government” and she’s a natural to comment on her thoughts, priorities and observations about the need to fix and reform several critical aspects of how state government should be operating to meet the needs of the people of California:

These days, just about everyone agrees that change is needed
in Sacramento.

This year’s state budget set the record for being the
latest, and probably the worst, in California’s history.  It has created severe strains on local governments
and school districts, and threatens to cut the heart out of education and
undermine programs that help  those most
in need.  It’s time for change and that
change needs to happen now.

The good news is that we are finally seeing movement for
change in Sacramento.  Today, the
newly-created “Assembly and Senate Select Committee on Improving State Government,”
will hold the first in a series of open, public hearings throughout the state. The
Committee is charged with developing specific proposals to reform state
government.  It will investigate
obstacles that stand in the way of government that meets the needs of the
people of California, and recommend action to remove those obstacles.

I believe there are three major reforms needed to get
California back on track:

(1) We must remove the 2/3rds requirement to pass a state
California is one of only three states with a 2/3 budget rule
requirement.  This has allowed a few legislators
to hold the entire state budget hostage. 
The U.S. Congress and 47 states require a simple majority to pass a
budget.  We need to give the majority
party, Republican or Democratic, the ability to do its job and then hold them
accountable.  That’s what democracy is
all about.

(2) We need to reform term limits. Legislators with a lack of experience or institutional
memory are dealing with increasingly complex challenges and a dysfunctional
governance system.
  More than one-third
of the Assembly is brand-new every two years,

(3)  We need to
reduce the influence of money in politics.
Public financing of campaigns in California would change the playing
field considerably.  Candidates would no
longer have to raise campaign funds from special interests with legislation
pending before the Legislature; they would owe their election only to
the people they represent.

The Joint Committee on Improving State Government will hold
four hearings throughout the state.  In
addition to today’s hearing in Sacramento, the Committee will hold open, pubic
hearings in the Bay Area on November 12th; in Los Angeles on
December 3rd; and in the Central Valley on December 15th.  Specific details of time and location are
still being worked out.

I highly encourage you to attend one of these hearings – your
voices and your concerns must be part of the process if we are to truly restore
democracy and ensure a brighter future for our state.