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Monday, Jul 22, 2024

Jill and Joe Voter Don’t Stand a Chance in Sacramento

Editor’s Notebook, Thomas York

Up in Sacramento, the shenanigans continue , as always.

According to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, is eagerly collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in his quest to extend term limits.

Nunez, aka the Don Quixote of the Assembly, is joined in the other chamber by loyal and sometimes able sidekick, Sancho Panza, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland.

Nunez’s and Perata’s minions are now seeking signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2008 ballot.

To underwrite signature gathering, Nunez’s benefactors, mainly big business interests and labor unions, have donated close to $1.7 million.

The proposed measure would give Nunez and Perata six more years in office by reducing future legislators’ time in one chamber to 12 years from the current 14 years, but carving out a one-off extension for current lawmakers, who are now limited to serving six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate.

If the ballot measure doesn’t pass, Nunez and Perata will be termed out of office at the end of 2008.

Designer Legislation

What’s maddening is how this bit of designer legislation is being financed.

Special interest groups seeking support from the two on various pieces of legislation are contributing obscene amounts to this quixotic quest.

The state teachers and Indian casinos, for example, gave $250,000 each, while hospitals gave $100,000. Several other labor unions gave $25,000.

Donors know that if they scratch Nunez’s back, he’ll be more inclined to scratch theirs. To get along, you have to go along, as House Speaker Carl Albert once said.

What’s maddening is that public opinion doesn’t support fiddling with term limits.

This is a deal crafted to benefit just two men, and two men only.

Now, to be sure, some oppose terms limits. They argue that the issues before legislators have become too complex, and there’s continual disruption in the process as lawmakers leave under the rules of term limits and replacements arrive to take their place.

But , and trust me on this , there are few issues facing the Legislature that require more than an eighth-grade education, certainly not a Ph.D. in astrophysics or J.D. from Boalt Hall.

Term limits is working just fine, thank you.

Nunez’s PR guy told the Times that the speaker maintains a “firewall between contributions and policy.” Yeah, right, firewall indeed.

The mere appearance of wrongdoing can appear as evil as actually doing wrong, and I think we have a strong case for that here.

Heart Of The Issue

Though, of course, the heart of the issue is not about firewalls, but honesty, integrity and morality.

Lawmakers should act as role models, but instead they behave like spoiled, selfish children.

What would be ideal are legislators who could withstand the cash assault dumped on the state capitol by special interests.

And what makes it even more questionable is the fact that well-financed, highly organized special interests are contributing cash to these two because they feel they need to buy his support.

The special interests know if they support him, he supports them, or at least, he might be more favorably inclined to look more favorably upon their pleadings.

What’s questionable, too, are the amounts involved.

Political groups can’t donate more than $7,200 to candidates when they are running for election or re-election. But they face no such restrictions when it comes to such activities as gathering signatures for statewide ballots.

Unfortunately, Jill and Joe voter really don’t have much of a say till the measure appears on the ballot in the voting booth.

And well before voting day next November, Nunez will have raised tens of millions of dollars to pursue his six extra years in office.

We’ve become so used to this sort of thing that we no longer react. We no longer get outraged when politicians put unenlightened self-interests ahead of others, the citizens who put them into office.

We shrug our shoulders, and go about our daily lives without giving a thought to what’s happening.

It’s corrupt, yet we no longer see the corruption. It’s as common in San Diego as it is in Sacramento, or Washington, D.C., or any seat of power where politicos-turned-politicians gather.

Jill And Joe Voter

As noted earlier, Jill and Joe voter don’t stand a chance in this new world order of corruption, so they’ve abandoned local precincts in droves. They know the politics of the state are no longer decided at the ballot box, but through fund raisers conducted behind closed doors.

No wonder the turnout at the poll continues to decline as politicians distance themselves from the will of the voters.

We really don’t know who’s doing the buying and who’s doing the selling.

Thomas York is editor of the San Diego Business Journal.


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