Monday, October 25, 2010


Sanity somewhere? Really?

Despite the struggling economy, most California voters oppose suspending the state's landmark global warming law, which would place strict new environmental regulations on business, a new Los Angeles Times/ USC poll shows.

Proposition 23, which would put the new emissions standards on hold, is trailing 48% to 32% among likely voters, according to the survey.

But as voters look inclined to stay the course with the state's global warming policies, they appear ready to radically change state budget policy. The poll found that 58% of likely voters support Proposition 25, which would replace the constitutional requirement that the state budget be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature with a simple majority vote requirement....

The big headline here would seem to be the rejection of the emissions proposition, which is being backed by the kind of fat-cat corporate cash that's poisoning elections nationwide. But I'm intrigued by the apparent wish of California voters to reform the budget process -- the supermajority requirement to pass a budget takes liberal and moderate ideas off the table, because Republicans in the legislature vote in a bloc and resist tax increases on anyone.

Y'know -- kinda like the U.S. Senate. And kinda like the tea party idea that a two-thirds majority should be required in both houses of the U.S. Congress to raise taxes, ever, on anybody, which some 'baggers have included as part of a proposed balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

California has had the gridlock-generating supermajority requirement for a while. Given the fact that the nation often goes where California leads, does this mean we can look forward to a national return of sanity?

Well, maybe -- eventually. Note a few caveats about this proposition:

Proposition 25 is pitched by supporters as a means to end Sacramento's notorious budget gridlock. In their advertisements, supporters also have stressed that the measure would dock lawmakers' pay if a budget was not passed on time. The measure would leave in place a two-thirds vote requirement for broad tax hikes.

... While the two-thirds vote requirement would remain in place for broad-based tax hikes, the measure would still make it easier for Democrats to pass a budget loaded with billions of dollars in "fees" that can be approved by a simple majority.

So the supermajority rule would remain partly in place. And what seems to be changing the voters' minds is a punitive aspect of the bill. Oh, and this is happening in a state that's resisting the GOP wave this year.

So this may not be a harbinger of things to come because it's happening in a state that's still blue. Plus, it's partial reform, and it seems to be happening only because voters are fed up with gridlock, and with the legislators in general.

What that says to me is that, as a nation, we might have to go through the entire process California is going through -- first adopting cockamamie right-wing ideas (although it's harder to amend our Constitution than it is to pass a California initiative, thankfully), then suffering through years of stagnation and gridlock as the right-wing ideas fail, and then -- maybe -- we see reason. Maybe. If a wave of non-right-wing thinking takes hold, and can dovetail with the usual they're-all-bums disgust with politicians.

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