Lawmakers get advice from political experts

October 22, 2009 7:08:35 PM PDT
Sacramento lawmakers know voters are angry at them. The problem is they don't know what to do about it. On Thursday, ABC7 Political Analyst Bruce Cain was among a group of experts called into give the state legislature some much-needed advice.

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Even in the legislature's home town right across the street from the Capitol, people told ABC7 they don't think much of state lawmakers.

On Thursday morning, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer told the Senate and Assembly Committees on improving state government term limits are a big part of the problem.

"I mean you're just captive of the current environment, I don't see any way out," said Lockyer.

Lockyer and several of the political experts that testified said lawmakers are too inexperienced, too focused on raising money and too vulnerable to special interests.

ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain told them if they don't change that perception, it's going to get worse.

"And the number one problem that's sitting right out there, that could probably pass if people get angry enough with you, is the part time legislature. And if you think term limits is a problem, you haven't seen anything yet," said Professor Cain.

Sitting in the audience listening to Professor Cain was conservative blogger and radio talk show commentator Patrick Dorinson.

"To me if they were on a part time basis, spending more time with constituent services and maybe having jobs in the private sector, they might look at life a little differently," said Dorinson.

Senate Committee Chair Mark De Saulnier of Concord says public anger with the legislature has created a crisis and an opportunity.

"We've got three months with this effort right here to come back to the full legislature in January and offer some really significant suggestions," he said.

The number one suggestion is to fix the budget impasse. Almost every year, the requirement for a two -thirds majority to pass a budget means the legislature is mired in partisan bickering while the state runs out of money.

Cain said changing the two thirds rule would require a vote of the people.

"That's the problem, and until a majority of Californians favor doing that, they're not going to. You can't really hope for that," he said.

So far the polling on that question has been sketchy. Some polls suggest it might pass, while some show it's not a big enough margin to survive all the negative advertising that would surely come.

So while the Democratic majority would like to see it happen, the Republicans aren't on board.

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