Through the eyes of the media
Good ideas for reform
This week the Senate Rules Committee is examining a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would reform how the legislature does business.
The California Legislative Reform Act of 1996
(Introduced as Senate Constitutional Amendment 31 by
Senator Ray Haynes) is crafted to win widespread public
support based on typical populist themes such as salary
reductions and spending restrictions. However, the
amendment would take California back to a part-time
Legislature and a six-month session from January
through July 3…
Much of the amendment, however, is admirable, including the prohibition against the indebtedness that cannot be paid off within the same fiscal year. This could stop the state from mortgaging its assets, much like Los Angeles County. Voter approved bond measures are excepted.
To end budget gridlock, the amendment calls for docking lawmakers' pay -including the governor- if they fail to bring in a budget on time. Past suggestions to force timely budget action by suspending legislative pay have been toothless. This amendment makes it more painful, "There shall be no retroactive pay…"
Ending taxpayer-funded luxury cars for legislators and
staff would enhance the notion that government is of,
by and for "the people." Most working folks have to
provide their own means to and from the job site.
Those parts of the amendment which cut waste and
restrict spending should receive serious consideration…
San Gabriel Valley Tribune Editorial, June 1996
Bid to cut pay of lawmakers dies quickly
A proposed constitutional amendment that would cut the pay of legislators by 30 percent and create a part-time Legislature died without a debate or a vote in a Senate committee yesterday.
Sen. Ray Haynes whose district includes the Fallbrook
and Palomar areas of northern San Diego County, played
the role of maverick by introducing a rare measure,
SCA 31, that would cut the pay of his colleagues. "When I introduced it, I didn't expect much," said Haynes. "This is the kind of radical change that you wont see come from the inside. For the most part, members get uncomfortable in talking about it."
Haynes was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and the
Senate in 1994. He has concluded that the Legislature,
which meets for about seven months each year, wastes
nearly half of its time. "We don't need seven or eight
months," said Haynes. "We can do the bills in three
months, the budget in one month and we would be out of
here in four months." Haynes said a part-time Legislature would need less pay. The measure would have dropped the pay from $75,600 to $52,500.
Andy Ramirez of West Covina, the sponsor of SCA 31,
asked the Senate Rules Committee to forward to a policy committee or directly or directly to the Senate floor for a "historic debate." But no motion to move the bill came from the committee members, three Democratic and two Republicans. "I think we are going to hold it," Senate President Pro-Tempore Bill Lockyer, D-Hayward, said to Ramirez. "The historic debate ended today."
Ramirez said he was "stunned" by the failure of the
committee to debate or move on the bill. He said he
will push for an initiative, but acknowledged that
gathering the signatures needed to put a measure on a
ballot will be difficult.
"Someone in there should have moved the bill," said
Ramirez. "It's obvious they didn't want to put any
members in the position of having to vote for or
*Note: Bill Lockyer was elected as California's State
Attorney General in 1998
Written by Ed Mendel, Capitol Bureau Chief, June 18, 1996
Proposal to end legislative perks, create part-time Legislature dies in committee.
Let's put this on hold…the historic debate ended today," said Senate President Pro-Tem Bill Lockyer as Senate
Constitutional Amendment 31 introduced by Senator Ray
Haynes failed to receive any votes in a Senate Rules
Committee meeting. In fact, no one even voted to even
move the bill.
But Andy Ramirez, the 28 year old sponsor of the bill
and Chairman of Californians for an Accountable
Legislature, vowed to keep working to further to
implement changes and benefits and conditions of
serving in the California Legislature. He is currently
working on a ballot initiative that would implement
The principal tenet of SCA 31, according to Ramirez, is to reform the State Legislature by making the current full-time Legislature a part-time legislature, and cutting legislator pay currently set at $75,600/year for regular members, $83,160 for the majority and minority leaders of each house and $90,720 for the Senate President Pro-Tem and Speaker of the Assembly, to $52,500 for all members.
"Legislators are currently paid too much and receive too many perks," said John Grimley of Haynes office. "If we put time constraints on the legislative and budget process, we may get more done in less time." Grimley pointed out the advantages of having a shorter term for the legislature: "It will enforce a more serious attitude in the legislature. If they concentrate on doing their work in a shorter period of time, we may have less regulation, less taxation and a more business-friendly environment. A part-time legislature would essentially be more committed to doing the work of legislators," Grimley added. "There would be no delays or put-overs of bills, as we're currently seeing. Senator Haynes believes that the legislature can do all of its business on a part-time basis."
The bill would specify that legislators' would begin
their terms of office after January first of every year, rather than the current first Monday in December. The California Citizens Compensation Commission (CCC) would be allowed to propose to salary increases for legislators and other state executive officials, but the increases would have been subject to voter approval at each statewide election. (Current law has the Governor appointing the Members of the CCC, who in turn establish the salaries.) Salary increases for other locally elected officials of cities and counties would also be subject to the approval of local voters.
The bill would excluded the cost of meals during
legislative sessions…(restricted the tax- free living
expense allowance and office remodeling program),…and
end the practice of providing legislators with cars
provided at state (taxpayers) expense. "Car reform is
needed because the legislative vehicle program is a
luxury," said Ramirez, who pointed out that legislators are given as much as $450 a month to pay for their vehicles. "The cars that legislators get are not the typical mom and pop pool cars like Toyota Corollas or Ford Tauruses."
According to Ramirez, legislation work would officially commence on March 1 of every year, and move the deadline for passing the Budget Bill by May 15 of each year. If the budget were not passed by May 31 of each year, the Governor and legislators would not be paid for their work after May 31 if a budget was not passed.
Moreover, the Budget bill each year would require that
a balanced budget be passed. The Governor would be
allowed to exercise his authority to pass a balanced
budget, which would reduce appropriations to eliminate
any imbalance that exceeds 10 percent of the amount
available, as specified in the General Fund budget. As
recommended by the California Constitutional Revision
Commission, a simple majority would be required to pass the budget. The legislature could only meet after July 3 of each year and before July 31 to reconsider bills that have been returned for reconsideration by the Governor.
Lockyer expressed his reservations about the proposals
advocated in SCA 31, saying that the current state of
the legislature complies with the wishes of the voters. "The voters established the Citizens Compensation Commission to establish the salaries of its elected officials," Lockyer said. "In 1966, the voters decided that California would have a full-time legislature to serve its 35 million residents. It was the voters who decided that the state government workload justifies having a full-time legislature.
Ramirez disagreed, saying that current legislators
"live like gods and goddesses, as though they were
above the law that ordinary citizens have to abide by."
Written by June Gin, July 8, 1996
Lawmaker pay bill on back burner
Lawmakers stalling salary reductions
Committee defeats legislature reform
A proposed constitutional amendment that would reduce the salaries and perks of state lawmakers and subject all future pay raises to voter approval ran aground in the Legislature on Monday.
The measure, SCA 31, introduced by Senator Ray Haynes,
would have reduced salaries of most lawmakers from
$75,600 to $52,500, taken away their state furnished
cars and required them to forfeit their salaries during any period when a state budget is not passed on time.
Proponent, Andy Ramirez of West Covina, said the
measure would spark a much needed public debate over
the role of the Legislature. But no one on the Senate
Rules Committee was inclined to provide a motion to
advance the bill. "We're going to hold it," said Senate President Pro-Tem Bill Lockyer chairman of the committee. "The historic debate ended today."
Published by all 3 papers, June 18, 1996
He's out to give legislators time off for bad behavior
Andy Ramirez is just a middle class guy in the eastern reaches of Los Angeles County, where the thick smog so often obscures the view. But Ramirez thinks he sees clearly what is wrong with the Legislature, and it's a vision that may be wildly popular if he can get it in front of his fellow Californians.
Ramirez, you see, thinks the state's grand experiment
with a full-time legislature has flopped. He think state lawmakers are pampered with high salaries, coddled with un-needed perks, and elevated beyond their importance by a schedule that compels them to invent things to do to fill the time alotted.
It a concept that is clearly debatable. But it resonates in the Capitol at this time of year because the newly-elected Legislature has been in business for nearly two months now and has done hardly a thing. It's enough to make even a supporter of the Legislature wonder why lawmakers need to be here.
Ramirez is trying to qualify for the ballot a constitutional amendment that would lop two months off the beginning of every eight month session and another two months at the end. He would...require that any proposed increase be approved by the voters. He would get rid of their state-paid cars, sharply limit their tax-free allowance of $105 a day for living expenses and dock their pay if they don't pass a budget by the start of the fiscal year in July.
"The legislature has done nothing for the past two years but fight," says Ramirez, 29, a Democrat turned Republican. "Right now they are up there and what are they doing? Nothing. This is an opportunity for the people of California to stand up to the Legislature and say, We dont agree with what you are doing."
Ramirez has won an ally in Republican state Senator Ray Haynes who is part of the GOP leadership in the Senate. Haynes tried to push the measure through
the Legislature a year ago but, understandably got nowhere. Now Haynes says he will help Ramirez raise money for the huge task of finding 1 million signatures
needed to qualify the initiative for the state ballot.
"I think it's a good idea," Haynes said. "We spend the first three months of every session doing absolutely nothing. With this we would be working every day we are
here. Right now about half the time we are here we dont work."
"Most people say I dont have a chance in hell of this thing ever passing," he says. "But I think it can be done. I really do. We have the right message. We have the truth behind us. We have so much evidence that the people can't overlook this."
Written by Dan Weintraub, Feb 2, 1997
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