By this time next year, Californians could see significant change to the structure of the State Legislature.
Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) has proposed a bill that would reduce the working days of the legislature from a full year to just 90 per year. In addition, the 40 senators and 80 members of the assembly would be subject to steep pay cuts.
The current salary for someone who holds a legislative office in California is approximately $95,000 a year, but with the passage of the bill, legislators would receive a stipend of only $18,000 for their three months of service.
Grove stated that this bill, if made law, would increase legislative productivity by holding senators and assemblymembers accountable for the time that they spend on each order of business.
“The first three and a half months that I was in office not a single bill was introduced,” she said. “Right now we get paid whether we are passing bills or sleeping in our own beds.”
In addition to salary reductions totaling about $11 million a year, the legislature would also be required to pass a budget by June 15 of every odd year, or else risk losing their salary for every day that the budget is overdue. Besides that, legislators, upon leaving the State Capitol, would be barred from accepting state employment for five years, giving others a chance to serve.
Grove hopes to reduce the state’s education budget cuts and to rebuild aging infrastructure with the money gained from reducing legislative salaries.
Not all legislators have jumped on the bandwagon, however. Members such as Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) cite time shortage, the economic need for year-round legislation, and increased power to Gov. Jerry Brown and lobbyists as reasons to defeat the bill.
Grove disagrees with these statements, saying that Gov. Brown and lobbyists must wait for legislative action before passing or defeating a bill, part of the checks and balances that were set up to regulate government. She also recalls the period before the 1966 bill passed to make California’s state legislature full-time, when California simultaneously had a part-time legislature and the fifth-largest economy in the world. She said moving the legislature to part-time will help the economy grow from its current position as the eighth-largest economy in the world.
Furthermore, the governor would have the power to reconvene the legislature in the event of an emergency, in the form of a special session lasting no more than 15 days.
Nevertheless, it will be up to voters to decide whether or not to approve the constitutional amendment that would place the legislature back on a part-time schedule. At this time, 807,615 petition signatures are needed in order to place the bill on the November 2012 ballot, according to Ted Costa of the lobbyist group People’s Advocate.
CHLOE BREZSNY can be reached at email@example.com.