Perhaps the least startling news out of Sacramento last week was that a bill requiring members of the California Assembly to fully disclose their spending habits was allowed to die.
And no matter what fairy tales your elected representatives in the Assembly decide to tell you, the real reason the bill died was that lawmakers don’t want to divulge how many of your tax dollars they’re spending on office expenses, committees, etc.
Now, what does that tell you about the legitimacy of their spending? That’s a question that answers itself.
What makes the ignominious death of Assembly Bill 1946 even more galling is that it also sends the message that at least some members of the Assembly have little intention of obeying a judge’s ruling that such spending totals are a matter of public record.
The court ruling came after newspapers sued to have Assembly office accounts fully disclosed — as they should be — and after key members of the Assembly refused to release such records, or chose to release partial accountings.
The author of the disclosure bill, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, admitted she filed the legislation knowing it had little chance of survival — which tells you a lot about how little confidence she had in her colleagues’ ability or willingness to be honest about how they spend your tax dollars.
The bill died in committee, without comment. Later, a member of the committee — and among the stonewalling Democratic majority — said the bill was unnecessary because Assembly members have not contested the judge’s disclosure ruling. What she didn’t say was that some members still aren’t revealing all the details about their spending.
And, while we’re on the subject of lawmaking ineptitude and obfuscation, it seems only fair to report that one possible solution to problems in Sacramento has also been delayed, at least for this year. A citizens’ group has been collecting signatures to get an initiative on the November ballot that would convert the Legislature into a part-time operation.
At last reporting, the group had collected only about 300,000 of the 807,615 valid signatures necessary to get the initiative on the ballot. We’re not sure if that’s because the group doesn’t have the skills and resources to collect the needed names, or if potential signers believe the Legislature being busted down to part-time is a bad idea.
One possible reason for the slow start is that, apparently, there is a lot of competition among various groups for gathering initiative signatures, which drives up the costs. The groups with the deep pockets can afford to pay more, which leaves the grass-roots folks struggling.
It’s interesting to note that Assemblywoman Grove, who tried to launch the legislation mentioned above to require full financial disclosure, is also helping the group trying to promote the part-time Legislature notion. Well, at least we know one person in Sacramento is focused on making a better government.
Critics of the part-time scheme suggest it’s just a gimmick, and one that won’t solve any of California’s more pressing problems. And, they say, the general public realizes that fact, thus the shortage of citizens willing to add their signatures to the initiative’s petition.
One opponent said, “You don’t solve the problems of the Legislature by cutting down the amount of time” they’re in Sacramento.
Perhaps you don’t. But you certainly can’t resolve core issues by ignoring them — all of which lends support to the growing movement toward a total state government makeover, a complete overhaul of a system that has been broken for many years.