Despotism California Style

Last week I wrote about efforts by majority Democrats in the Legislature to rob Californians of their right to use the initiative process to pass measures like Proposition 13 and Three Strikes over the objections of establishment politicians.

Meanwhile lawmakers are using an initiative they backed Proposition 25 that gives them almost complete powers over the legislative process. In early 1920s Italy prior to Benito Mussolini’s fully establishing himself as absolute dictator the Italian Parliament was still allowed to meet. The Fascists guaranteed the votes they needed to pass their agenda by having armed party members guard the doors of Parliament during debate and by stationing militiamen in the public galleries where they would make a great show of fingering their daggers and revolvers.

When Proposition 25 was on the ballot last year to assure its approval by voters Democrats and their allies used a well-funded campaign that focused on the measure’s penalty of no pay for lawmakers who failed to deliver an on time budget. Little public attention was focused on provisions that allow the passage of almost any bill as long as it is said to be tied to the budget with a simple majority vote without consideration by the committees that normally take public comment without debate and without even being read by any but a handful of legislators. Known as “trailer bills” they take effect immediately making any challenge by referendum difficult. (Although the People’s right to referend these questionable bills is something the courts will have to resolve). Prior to Proposition 25 bills that circumvented the standard deliberative process had to be declared “urgency measures” and they required a two-thirds vote of lawmakers for approval.

Veteran Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters recently wrote about how Proposition 25 is being used with relish by Democrat lawmakers to shelter legislation from public view. A bill placed in the budget package literally minutes before the vote revised school finance to benefit the politically powerful California Teachers Association and make it more difficult for local school districts to manage cuts if they become necessary. Pleased with their success lawmakers followed up with another measure that allows them to borrow from the state’s university system. “There was no rational reason for the bill to be done so secretly or hurriedly” commented Walters. “Seemingly Democrats did it just because they could — thumbing their noses not only at Republicans but at the larger public.”

So far dozens of bills have been stampeded through under Proposition 25’s cloak of secrecy. Many of these bills were not even in print at the time of passage and directly contrary to what voters were told about Prop 25 they have virtually nothing to do with the budget process.

Today in Sacramento to impose one political party’s policies using undemocratic procedures black-shirted goons are not needed to guard the doors of the Capitol Building. The thugs are inside the chambers casting the votes. Il Duce would be very proud.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.