With so many special interests deeply invested in pulling the levers and turning the wheels of California state government, scaling back to a part-time Legislature may seem a pipe dream. Still, some dreams come true.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met with a new reform group that intends to put on the November 2010 ballot a measure to abolish California's year-round state Legislature and replace it with a part-time body to meet 90 days a year. California is one of only six states with full-time legislatures.
In more placid times, which is to say before the governor's favorability ratings fell to all-time lows and the Legislature's even lower, even considering such a proposal would have been unthinkable for a governor. These are not placid times.
The Legislature has operated full-time since 1966. But lawmakers were forced to reconvene repeatedly in special sessions to adopt three successive budgets for this year, largely due to their own mismanagement. A fourth session to revise the current budget is possible before year's end.
Gov. Schwarzenegger met Wednesday with Gabriella Holt, head of the Citizens for California Reform, a nonpartisan group seeking "more limited and more transparent government." A spokesman for the governor said that while Mr. Schwarzenegger hasn't endorsed the idea, he considers a part-time Legislature to be one answer to state government's mess.
While that's a good sign, even more promising was pollster Mark Baldassare, of the Public Policy Institute of California, saying 80 percent of state voters disapprove of the Legislature's performance.
"The public is in a very angry mood about state government, in particular the Legislature," Mr. Baldassare told the San Francisco Chronicle. "So anything that comes with making life harder for the Legislature comes with public support — because they're frustrated with the lack of action on things they think are important."
Bringing Sacramento under control just might begin by shrinking the role of those pulling the levers and turning the wheels. Could this be next year's Prop. 13?