Legislators Shame Even Dick and Jane

MAR. 23, 2012

By KATY GRIMES

Political gamesmanship is as old as man and politics. The levels of gamesmanship, however, can either remain at mere power struggles and turf wars, or escalate to abuses of power.

With 78 empty budget bills now in the hands of the legislative Democrats, many at the Capitol are questioning why Democrats are trying so hard to prove that they are in power.

Legislators could take a lesson from Dick and Jane, who taught school children manners, rules, common decency and, “Before We Read, We Look and See.”

‘We Work, We Play’

On March 8, the Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, moved 40 spot budget bills — empty bills awaiting bill language — from the budget committee to the Senate floor without holding hearings on the bills.

Thursday, Assembly Democrats did the same, and passed 37 empty budget spot bills from the Assembly Budget Committee to the Senate, outraging Assembly Republicans.

As I wrote March 9 in Shenanigans in CA Senate:

This may seem kind of esoteric, but the impacts are real. These actions are serious shenanigans from elected politicians who know better.

“By avoiding the legislative process, which requires committee hearings for all bills, it is clear that the goal of this effort is to set up a secretive last minute budget vote, lacking the promised transparency and public involvement.

“Now that Propositions 25 and 26 are constitutional law, (the majority vote by the Legislature to pass a budget, and supermajority vote to pass fees and taxes by the Legislature, respectively), the Democrats are taking major policy changes and potential tax increases by dropping them in trailer bill language.”

‘Days and Deeds’

During the Assembly session Thursday, Budget Committee Vice Chairman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, was critical of Assembly Democrats for passing the 37 spot bills. “These bills will be vehicles for covert backroom deals, most of which will have nothing to do with the budget,” Nielsen said after the hearing.

The empty bills contain no details, and will be passed on to the Senate, where amendments can be adopted and brought back to the Assembly. Assembly members will not be able to make amendments to the bills, and can only vote on them. Or not.

Ironically, last week was “Transparency Week” in the Legislature, with every lawmaker signing on to a resolution touting transparency measures.

“How ironic, last week we had transparency week and today we have all these bills that are the antithesis of transparency,” said Nielsen. “By voting for the 37 spot bills that mean absolutely nothing, the Democrats have disgraced the peoples’ legislative process.”

“This is an abuse of the 50 + 1 majority vote for the budget,” Nielsen said, meaning 50 percent of the chamber plus one more vote. He added that the current process of passing budget spot bills only serves to empower majority Democrats on the Budget Conference Committee to drop their own budget plans at the 11th hour.  This does not allow for committee hearings to be held, nor does it give the public the opportunity to review or weigh in on the plan before the entire Legislature is asked to cast a vote.

‘”Go Away, Spot’

Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, has proposed Assembly Constitutional Amendment 13, which would require an independent third party, the state controller, to review estimated revenues and expenditures and certify that a budget passed by the Legislature is balanced before it can be signed by the governor.

In a statement yesterday after the 37 budget spot bills were passed, Nestande said, “The method of the Assembly and Senate passing their own budgets and then reconciling the differences used to be the budget process in the Legislature many years ago.

“Under ACA 13, if the Controller does not certify the budget as balanced, the Legislature will not be allowed to adjourn.”

‘People and Progress’

“All of these spot bills are new venues for all kinds of games that will be played and things will be introduced that we don’t know anything about,” said Nielsen during his floor speech objecting to passage of the bills.  “There will be no in-depth policy committee discussions on these issues; what we’ve got here is governing in the dark of night.”

Nielsen told other legislators that, if they cared about the integrity of the legislative process, to vote “no” or abstain from voting on the 37 bills. Despite his plea, the spot bills were passed on a party-line vote.

“The public should be outraged, the media should be outraged,” said Nielsen. “Democrats are running roughshod over the process, and ignoring the constitution. They are abusing the process as well as voters.”

5 comments

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  1. Bob
    Bob 23 March, 2012, 15:05

    I heard that the legislaters can go back and change the way they voted in the record. They can vote one way, change the record and then tell the voters they voted differently than they really did. Anyone know if this is true?

    Reply this comment
  2. Richard
    Richard 24 March, 2012, 18:54

    Yes and no. In the Assembly, members can change their votes at the end of the session But these changes cannot affect the outcome of the vote. So say a majority vote bill passes 47-33, the first 6 members who record a vote change from aye to no or not voting are ok but the seventh is SOL since his/her change would affect the outcome by reducing the aye votes to 40 – below the minimum for passage. There is no limit the other way – 33 could change their vote to aye but that’s unlikely. The Senate does not allow changing votes after the roll is closed

    Reply this comment
  3. Judy McKeand
    Judy McKeand 25 March, 2012, 11:23

    This is absolutely outrageous! Everyone of these people should be recalled, but we know that won’t happen given the control of the Dems. Is there no bottom they can ever reach with their dirty politics?

    Reply this comment
  4. JustVoteNo
    JustVoteNo 29 March, 2012, 22:01

    Well, just as long as you don’t change your “no” vote to any incumbent, and your “no” vote to any of their propositions, perhaps then they’ll get the Dick and Jane of it.

    Reply this comment
  5. Michael
    Michael 30 March, 2012, 00:16

    I know that members of Congress can go in and change the record of what they said in Floor speeches, which is nuts!

    Reply this comment

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