California: I am so down with this

February 7, 2012

It’s never just one thing that sets a polity on the road to decline, but for several years now I’ve felt that one of the paving stones of California’s own road to ruin was the transformation of the legislature from a part-time body to full-time. (1)

This change created a class of professional legislators, career politicians who, to justify their (until recently) six-figure salaries and abundant perks, feel they have to pass law after law, whether or not they’re needed or even sensible.

And what have we gotten in return for creating a playground for professional pols? A sclerotic economy, a regulatory regime that sends businesses screaming in the other direction, the destruction of our manufacturing base, an energy and resource-development policy that gave us rolling blackouts, and  nanny-state that feels it can regulate even the way we light our homes.

One legislator, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), feels it is time to fix that long-ago mistake and return the legislature to part-time status:

A proposal by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) probably won’t make her many friends among her colleagues. She wants to reduce the Legislature to part-time status and cut its pay from $95,000 annually to $1,500 a month.

Grove is one of the organizers of an initiative that was approved Monday to begin circulating petitions toward qualifying for the ballot. The constitutional amendment would limit regular legislative sessions to 30 days each January and 60 days starting each May. In odd-numbered years, the legislative sessions would be devoted to budget issues.

(…)

“Since switching to a full-time body in the 1960s, the Legislature has steadily deteriorated, infiltrated by professional politicians, beholden to special interests, and has sunk to a ‘whatever it takes’ gang — where anything goes to remain in power,” Grove said.

This would go a long way toward ending the mischief in Sacramento and returning the legislature to what it should be: a body of citizens who gather periodically to tend to the state’s basic business. The professional progressive oligarchs currently lounging under the Green Dome will have to look elsewhere for a “career.”

Grove and her allies have to gather over 800,000 signatures in the next five months to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. I have but one question.

Where do I sign?

RELATED: It’s not all happy news. Read how California’s branch of the Party of Stupid screwed up and allowed the Democrats to hijack the citizens redistricting commission, and how they then flushed $2,000,000 down the drain, money that could have been used to capture legislative seats. Argh.

Footnotes:
(1) Yep. Ballot initiative. This was the people’s own-goal. We’re one of ten states with a full-time legislature.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Why California is circling the drain, fitted sheets edition

April 21, 2011

So, let’s think about this for a minute. California’s economy is in the dumps — if the nation is in a recession, we’re in a depression. Businesses(1) are fleeing the state because the cost of doing business here (taxes, regulations) are too darned high.  We have a $25 billion dollar deficit and we’re facing massive unfunded obligations on public-employee pensions, which are only growing. If we were a separate country, we’d make Greece look like Switzerland.

So, what does our legislature do? Focus all its efforts on our fiscal and economic mess? Bend every effort to bring businesses back to California?

What have you been drinking?

Nope. Our state senate is even now considering a bill to deal with the top problem facing California today: the lack of fitted sheets in hotel rooms:

The bill, SB 432, calls for hotels to use fitted sheets that require less lifting of mattresses weighing up to 100 pounds than traditional flat sheets.

It also calls for hotels to use mops and long-handled tools so that housekeepers would no longer have to stoop or kneel to scrub bathrooms and floors.

The measure was introduced by state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and backed by the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association and the hotel workers union, UNITE HERE.

Naturally, the bill’s proponents brought to the hearing witnesses to testify about how they’ve suffered having to lift mattresses and scrub toilets.  And there are studies that purport to show a higher rate of injury for hotel cleaning staff than the national average, though I’d want to check their work before taking their findings as holy writ(2). Nor am I unsympathetic to manual laborers, especially janitorial, work which I used to do. It can be wearing.

But, when the state’s economy is such a wreck, it seems counterproductive at best to impose new costs on businesses, costs that will either be passed on to the consumer(3) or balanced by hiring fewer workers — or both. As a local hotel association has argued:

The California Hotel & Lodging Association has said the fitted-sheet mandate alone will cost the industry across the state at least $15 million.

Hyatt Grand Champions GM Allan Farwell said their property, and many others in the desert, would have to replace flat linens if the measure is approved, as would many other local resorts and hotels.

Julius Kazen, president of the Palm Springs Hospitality Association, said the measure, besides posing an economic burden to properties, also would set dangerous precedent.

“It’s not the government’s place to get involved in the intricacies of our industry,” he said.

And it’s not just the big, evil, corporate hotel chains that would be affected by this (and could more easily absorb the costs), but small businesses, too: Mom-and-Pop motels started by immigrant families, or bed-and-breakfasts run by people seeking a second career — these would face higher costs and would thus be less likely to hire more help.

But Kazen makes a key point at the end of that last quote: it isn’t government’s place to regulate the minutiae of how a business operates. Granted, states have been assumed to have a general police power since the foundation of the Republic, so I have little doubt that Sacramento has the authority to pass this bill.

But it isn’t wise. Not when we have so many more pressing matters to deal with and not when we should be doing everything to make it easier for businesses to operate here, not to drive them away. Nor should we be taking on additional regulatory expenses.

On a more philosophical note, this is also a wrong-headed intrusion of government into places it doesn’t belong, even if it has the authority to go there. If the legislature can mandate the types of sheets and housecleaning tools used in a business, how long will it be before they see a need to save us from ourselves and mandate what kind of sheets and tools we can use in our own homes? This is another case of Nanny State minding our own business.

If there’s a problem with working conditions, then the hotel workers should agitate through their unions with their employers to get better conditions. If there’s an on-the-job injury, California has a strong Worker’s Comp program.  But, beyond that, the state should just stay out.

And legislators should worry about the state’s balance sheet, not a hotel’s bedsheets.

via Baseball Crank

LINKS: Here’s the text of the bill. Note that the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association is a grouping of worker’s comp attorneys, and thus hardly disinterested. State Senator de Leon represents the same district that used to elect leftists Jackie Goldberg and Gil Cedillo. He’s also been a member of the California Teachers Association and worked for the NEA. With that, you can imagine his opinion of the proper role of the state.

TANGENTS:

(1) You know, those evil things that create jobs.

(2) I mean, one originated with a labor institute at Berkeley. Yeah, I’ll trust in their objectivity.

(3) Who may then decide to spend less, or not come at all, reminding us that increasing costs lowers revenues. Something Sacramento should learn.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Legislative rock-heads

July 11, 2010

Not only is California’s legislature an oligarchy, but the oligarchs themselves are dimwits who waste the people’s money. First there was Fiona Ma and her blueberry commission. Now we have State Senator Gloria Romero (D), who has focused with laser-like precision on the most crucial issue facing California today. Is the the state’s debt? California’s high unemployment? The legislature’s inability to produce a balanced budget? The flight of businesses from the once-Golden State? Our crumbling infrastructure and lousy public schools?

Hah! Don’t bother the senator with your niggling concerns, puling citizen! No, Senator Romero has introduced legislation to fight the greatest threat to California and its children, today: the threat posed by our state rock.

Until recently, most people probably didn’t know that there was a state rock — far less that Romero wants to get rid of it.

Senate Bill 624, which has been passed by the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources but still has a long way to go in the Legislature, would strip serpentine of its state-rock title, held since 1965. Why? Because the rock “contains the deadly mineral chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, exposure to which increases the risk of the cancer mesothelioma” and because “California should not designate a rock known to be toxic to the health of its residents as the state’s official rock.”

(…)

So, how concerned should Californians be about their potentially carcinogenic state rock?

Not very, says John Rosenfeld, emeritus professor of geology at UCLA. According to Rosenfeld, SB 624 “is a bunch of bull.” (This newspaper’s editorial page also doesn’t think much of this bid to change California’s state rock, though it notes that some people with mesothelioma have taken up the cause.)

Of course, Rosenfeld said in an interview, people working with asbestos should wear masks and protect themselves from the mineral dust. But he goes on to explain that there are different types of asbestos, some of which are harmful, and others not. The green asbestos, chrysotile, is the least dangerous type, he says — and, fortunately, the most common type of asbestos found in California serpentine.

“Serpentine is a very beautiful rock. Holding the rock is not a problem and it’s nothing you should be concerned about,” he said. “It’s part of the history of California, noticed by the early settlers of this state. It’s a beautiful stone and shouldn’t be removed.”

Just because something isn’t a threat doesn’t mean we should stand by and do nothing about the threat… or something. Just ask the global-warming alarmists.  Silly

Meanwhile, bear in mind that Senator Romero makes around $100,000 per year for stuff like this, and that’s not counting her perks and per diems. I’m sure the voters of Senate District 24 will be glad to know they’re getting their money’s worth, and that Gloria Romero is dealing with those matters of greatest importance to them.

Maybe she should use some of that salary to buy a basic text on Mineralogy, too.


California’s arrogant legislature

July 11, 2010

I’ve often said in recent years that California isn’t a democracy; it’s instead an oligarchy ruled by a corrupt and distant elite in the legislature who only appear before the people when they need our votes for reelection, but otherwise ignore us and treat us as bothersome children at best.

Next November’s election will see a glaring example of that oligarchy at its arrogant best. On the list of ballot propositions sits number 27, which will eliminate the citizen’s commission created to draw legislative district boundaries and give the power to the legislature.

What’s wrong with that, you ask?

Proposition 27 is a ballot initiative that effectively repeals Proposition 11, which the voters passed in 2008 for the express purpose taking the redistricting power away from the legislature. California has long had a problem with “safe seats,” assembly and state senate seats in which the incumbent is almost guaranteed reelection because the district has been gerrymandered to give the legislator a majority of favorable voters. The result was a group of lawmakers who really had no need to listen to the voters and could rule almost as they wished – in other words, as an oligarchy.

Allowing legislators to draw their own districts is like letting corporations create territories in which they agree not to compete with each other: for customers and voters, the lack of genuine competition and choice can only work to their detriment. Proposition 11 was meant to break this corrupt arrangement, and the citizen’s commission being formed now will get its first chance to draw genuinely competitive districts next year.

Yes, that’s right. The oligarchs behind this measure are trying to gut the commission before its been tried even once. So desperate are they to protect their incumbencies (and six-figure salaries, plus hefty perks) that they are going to try to slip this sham through, hoping the public isn’t paying attention. That’s how little they think of us, even as they claim it’s for the good of the state.

And this measure is not only intended to take back for the legislature the power to draw its own districts, but also gut the intent of Proposition 20, a follow-on measure to add the drawing of congressional districts to the duties of the citizen’s commission. Democrats in the California congressional delegation fought earlier combined redistricting reform attempts tooth and nail. But now that Prop 20 looks like it has a good chance to succeed, Pelosi, Berman, and others have joined with their Sacramento colleagues to protect their own safe seats with Proposition 27 serving as a Trojan Horse.

Make no mistake: the arguments in favor of Proposition 27 are bunk. It isn’t about democracy, saving the state money, or making those who draw the districts “accountable to the voters.” (PDF. That last is one of their sick jokes, I’d guess.) It is nothing more than an attempt by the oligarchy to thwart the will of the people and  preserve their legislative fiefdoms. Don’t let them fool you. Vote no on Proposition 27 and yes on Proposition 20.

And tell the oligarchs to go to Hell.

(via FlashReport)


But does it include XM Radio and an iPod dock?

December 8, 2008

For a state well on the way to going broke, California continues to show it has its fiscal priorities straight — straight up where the sun doesn’t shine, that is. San Francisco Chronicle columnists Matier and Ross report that the Mandarins of the Golden Dome in Sacramento, also known as the California legislature, continue to get heavy subsidies for their autos and fuel:

California’s multibillion-dollar deficit hasn’t stopped the state from shelling out an estimated $1.3 million to keep 40 new and returning lawmakers rolling in style during these toughest of times.

Nearly all 28 of the newly sworn-in members of the Assembly, plus several of the 52 holdovers, have leased new wheels through the state – at a cost well below what the average wage slave pays at the dealer. On the Senate side, nine of the 11 new members – all of whom just moved over from the Assembly – picked up new rides along with their new titles.

Among them, San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, who has a new, $32,000 Toyota Camry hybrid.

Contra Costa County’s newly minted Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and fellow Democrat Joe Simitian of Palo Alto both have new, $34,000 Nissan Altimas.

While most members have gone hybrid green with their car selections, there’s one notable exception.

Republican Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar (Los Angeles County), who proudly declares on his Web site that he has led the fight to cut government waste and has never voted for a tax increase, ordered himself a brand-new, 2008 Cadillac CTS – priced at $46,000.

Under government rules, the legislators lease their vehicles from the state with the help of a monthly $350 to $500 auto allowance. The amount varies based on the lease terms and whether the member serves in the Assembly or Senate.

Any costs above that come out of the legislators’ pockets – which, in the case of the Senate, is anywhere from $35 a month for a new Chevy Malibu hybrid to $280 for a Lexus hybrid.

Of course, lawmakers also get free gas and maintenance.

Kind of reminds you of the CEOs of the Big Three automakers flying to Washington to beg for handouts for the bankrupt companies, doesn’t it?

I don’t object to some subsidies for necessary expenses incurred as part of their job, but, with the state teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, this is just plain silly and wasteful. California legislators receive salaries of $113,098 per year, and a per diem of $162 for each day the legislature is in session, which lasts roughly eight months. And on top of that they get discounted car leases and free gas and maintenance?  I want in on this deal! Money Eyes

With their salaries and per diems, California assemblymen and senators make more than enough to see to their transportation needs. Let them show genuine leadership and responsibility: the state needs to cut its budget sharply, and these auto perks should be among the first to go.

EDIT: Updated 2/6/12 to remove Technorati tags and add WordPress tags.


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