The LAT's Evan Halper and Michael Rothfeld ask whether or not California is governable.
"The governor has no shortage of critics who say the
fault lies with him. If he were a more effective, engaged
leader, they charge, the lawmakers would follow.
"Others say this nation-state is so oversized, Balkanized and polarized that
it is destined for dysfunction no matter who is in
charge. They cite its influx of immigrants, its constant
tensions over water supply and its large, self-contained regions that bear little resemblance to one
"It has even been suggested that the state should break
into multiple, more manageable pieces. More than two
dozen attempts at that have been tried over the years,
the latest by a Northern California lawmaker in the
early 1990s. More recently, a blog called Three Californias was
created to advocate carving California out of the union
and turning it into a new country with three states.
"The state's Constitution also makes governing a challenge. California
is one of only three states that require two-thirds of the Legislature to agree on a budget. A few
lawmakers from the minority party can derail a spending
plan -- and they do, sometimes to the point of preventing
the government from paying its bills.
"And California's heavy use of the initiative system, intended to let
voters solve problems when lawmakers don't, has created conflicting mandates that experts say
undermine rational policymaking."
Dan Walters writes not even a Constitutional convention would solve the
"If the Legislature is incapable of dealing with California's burning
political issues, including the budget, how could we
expect it to agree
on how a constitutional convention would work – especially the partisan
or ideological makeup of convention delegates?
want a convention likely to embrace removing impediments
taxes, for instance, by containing a strong majority
colleagues, while Republicans wouldn't go along with that – thus
mirroring their essential conflict over the budget.
even if legislators, by some miracle, were to agree
details of such a convention, and voters were to give
blessing, delegates would still reflect the essential
already beset the Capitol, stemming from California's infinitely
cultural, economic and geographic complexity. Thus,
they could find
themselves in the same political gridlock as the Legislature.
Mark Lifsher looks a bit closer at some of the GOP budget priorities.
"For decades, California employers have griped about
governing overtime pay and lunch breaks, contending
that they raise
costs and darken the business climate.
their concerns have become a Republican bargaining
chip in tough
negotiations between the governor and lawmakers over
how to fix a
$14.8-billion hole in the state budget for the current fiscal
threatens to shut down government by spring.
"Major business groups took their concerns to Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger, and last month he included them in
his plan for
addressing the budget crisis."
Aurelio Rojas writes that efforts to reform state government and cut waste are
coming from unusual places--the offices of Karen Bass and Darrell Steinberg.
"'It's the Legislature's responsibility to provide oversight over the executive
branch and its agencies – that's our job, and that muscle has not been flexed in any
kind of ongoing way for a long time," [Steinberg] said.
"Steinberg has formed the Senate Office of Oversight
and Outcomes, hoping that two former newspaper reporters
and a lawyer can succeed where bureaucrats failed.
"Steinberg said the unit will not cost taxpayers extra
money, adding that it is being funded by "moving existing resources around" within the Senate's $111.3 million budget this year.
"In the Assembly, Bass has named Assemblyman Hector
De La Torre, D-South Gate, to chair the new Assembly Accountability
and Administrative Review Committee.
"The purpose of the committee, Bass said, is "to be proactive and examine the functions of various
"'Maybe there's some programs that are duplicated in various agencies,' Bass said. 'Maybe there's contracts that have gone on too long that aren't really efficient anymore, and maybe we need to terminate
The Chron's Matthew Yi looks into the pressure points on getting Republicans
to move on the budget.
"Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University,
said there are three sources of pressure that can be
applied to Republican lawmakers.
"The first lever is Schwarzenegger, but the frosty relationship
between the Republican governor and the members of
his party in the Legislature has made Schwarzenegger
ineffective, Gerston said.
"Second is pressure from powerful interest groups. Art
Pulaski, the executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, said
Friday that unions are gearing up for mail and phone
campaigns in Republican legislative districts.
"'We're going to start letting working families know about
what the Republicans are doing to their budgets, their
family budgets,' he said. But Republicans say that's a familiar tactic that has failed in the past.
"The third way to apply pressure is from the general
public, Gerston said, adding that he's surprised there hasn't been more public outrage over the state's budget mess.
"But that could change if the budget deficit is not
resolved and the state runs out of cash in coming weeks,
he said. Schwarzenegger's finance director, Mike Genest
, told reporters Thursday
that without a quick budget fix, the state's cash balance could be nearly $5 billion in the red by March.
"That could mean paying state workers with IOUs, along
with vendors doing business with the state and even
taxpayers awaiting tax refunds.
"'Once the public sees what's going on, it's not going to be pleasant,' Gerston said."
Meanwhile, Jim Sanders writes that Republicans are digging their heels in.
"Democrats say the GOP is holding California coffers
"But Jon Fleischman of the state GOP's board of directors said time is on their side.
"'At some point, I have to think (Democratic leaders) are going to say, 'OK, the Republicans are serious,' ' Fleischman said.
"'If nothing happens, then government spending is going
to stop because they're going to run out of money, so really, the Democrats
need to step forward.'
"Republicans say their goal is to end boom-and-bust budgeting cycles, bolster a reeling economy, and
to make state government more efficient and less costly.
"'The point is, if you don't make structural reforms now, I don't know when we can ever do it in this state,' said Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines of Clovis."
"Over the past week, letters of support have poured in to the San Diego Superior Court judge overseeing
the murder trial involving the teenage son of former
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and three of his friends," reports Kim Minugh for the Bee.
"Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines, Democratic political consultant Gale Kaufman and Bob White, chief of staff to former Gov. Pete Wilson, are among
the political heavyweights who have sent letters in
support of 19-year-old Esteban Núñez.
"Many of the writers focus less on the attributes of
the younger Núñez than on his influential father, his mother, Maria,
and the loving household the couple created for their
"'Despite two demanding careers, family has always been
their first priority,' wrote former Assemblyman Dario Frommer, a Los Angeles
Democrat. 'Fabian and Maria have struggled and sacrificed to make
sure their children had opportunities that they did
not enjoy as kids. So strong is their love for and
commitment to their children, that they put personal
differences aside and remarried a few years ago.'"
And at least one California politican now has a curfew. AP reports, "Fed up with the nocturnal work habits of its mayor,
city council has approved a curfew limiting how late
she can work at
"South El Monte council members say they have safety
and liability concerns for Mayor
Blanca Figueroa, who frequently works until the wee hours of the morning.
She must now leave the building by 11 p.m.
mayor — a self-described night owl — calls the restriction petty. She
says she needs to stay late because her daytime schedule
is filled with
meetings and her inbox is overflowing with letters
affected by the worsening economy."
That just might be the dumbest thing we've ever heard.