Jon Coupal- Columnist
is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with
offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website]
Taxpayers with the Three Rs
Progressive political agenda pummels the public
[Jon Coupal] 9/11/03
There's an old joke about the window washer who slipped off his
scaffold at the 80th floor. As he passed the 30th floor, he thought
to himself, "so far, so good." Indeed, when you stop
to think about it, very few people get hurt falling. They get
is the last week of the California legislative session. For
hardworking California families and businesses, this week
promises to be a brutal landing. A perfect storm of hardcore
partisan politics, an ultra-left-leaning legislative majority
and a governor pandering for every possible vote has virtually
guaranteed that Californians will be taxed more, regulated
more, and be subject to a further erosion of our civilized
and moral society.
How did we
get here? Let's just call it the harmonic convergence of the
Three Rs: Reapportionment, Recall and Revenge.
REAPPORTIONMENT: There is nothing more boring (and confusing) to the average
voter than reapportionment, also known as redistricting.
That's too bad because very few things can have as profound
an impact on our California Legislature. Leaving politicians
to draw their own political boundary lines is like giving the
inmates at San Quentin the keys to their cells and telling
them to behave themselves. The last decent boundary map --
written by judges -- was far superior in that the districts
did not end up looking like pieces of modern art. But the current
maps are a case study in political self-preservation. Democratic
districts became more Democratic and Republican districts became
more Republican, all in the name of incumbent protection.
protection reapportionment has a negative impact on policy
in a legislature controlled by left-of-center politicians.
First, it attracts and retains more liberal legislators. Gone
are the days when there were more than a handful of moderate
Democrats. Second, it emboldens current legislators to be more
partisan. The restraining influence of having to face a closely
divided constituency is gone. Of course, all this is true on
the other side of the aisle for Republicans as well. But the
problem is that Republicans are out of power and cannot stop
the onslaught of bad bills, let alone advance their own agenda.
seems like ancient history now, but there was a time when Gray
Davis could actually be counted on to veto most of
the really bad stuff. After all, in his original iteration
as governor, he was a self-described centrist. Not any more.
His political career being everything to Davis, he will do
anything -- anything -- to stay in power. Right now, he has
calculated that he needs the liberal base of the Democrat party
to have any chance at all of beating the recall. This makes
for interesting politics, but it is resulting in horrible policy.
has always been at odds with grass-roots conservatives, he
has at times defended California businesses against the
more liberal proclivities of his legislative brethren. Now,
however, any semblance of détente has been ripped away.
The business community is openly hostile to Davis for screwing
up energy, workers comp and being a lap dog to the trial lawyers.
For Davis, the final insult occurred this past weekend when
the California Chamber of Commerce, in an unprecedented move,
endorsed a gubernatorial candidate that wasn't Davis. (It was
the one who Davis thinks has a funny accent).
Gray retreating to his liberal base, what is going to happen
in the Legislature this week? It doesn't take a rocket
scientist to figure out that the liberals in the Legislature
smell a huge opportunity. Every conceivable liberal agenda
item is now moving. Many controversial bills which had previously
been put in the "suspense" file have been withdrawn
for a renewed push. These bills are moving forward -- with
Democrats often attempting to shut off debate, public comments
or hearings. One Legislator told me that the Republicans had
to raise a loud exception just to see some final language of
a bill before it passed out of the house.
it is not just opportunity that is motivating the ultra-liberals
in the Legislature. If polling continues to hold, there could
be a Republican in the Governor's office in less than a month.
Fear, as much as anything, is compelling John Burton, Herb
Wesson and company in their relentless drive for a more collectivist
REVENGE: The atmosphere in the Capitol is, according to all accounts,
as poisonous as it has ever been. It's not just the recall,
although that is a big part of it. Republicans feel that they
have been shut out of the political process entirely and are
not even afforded the courtesies normally given to the minority
party. Democrats, on the other hand, chafe under the two-thirds
vote requirement for tax increases and passage of the budget.
above, reapportionment has made Republicans even more conservative
and, in the last two years, the minority party
has stopped the tax increases Democrats so desperately want.
This year, the Democrats adopted a strategy built on portraying
the Republicans as obstructionists.
was having at least some measure of success in the media until
the "open microphone" incident. A
group of Democrats was meeting privately to discuss budget
strategy and openly speculated how a delay in the budget could
benefit them as well as the prospects for an initiative which
would rob the Republicans of even more power in the budget
debates. Little did they know that the discussion was being
broadcast on the Capitol's intercom system. Never had so much
been revealed since Toto pulled open the curtain on the Wizard
of Oz. The Republicans immediately capitalized, calling a press
conference and making a compelling case that at least some
Democrats were the ones being obstructionists.
of this major embarrassment for the Democrats was that the
final budget, for all its gimmicks, had no tax increases.
The Democrats had been effectively "faced" by the
Republicans and now the Democrats are exacting their pound
of flesh by shutting Republicans out of the legislative process.
will be bad. Democrats will "gut and amend" more
bills, wholly changing the subject of legislation in gross violation
of long-standing rules of procedure. They will attempt to hold
committee "hearings" in the hallways or in private
offices away from the public eye. They will move bills late at
night with obscure language which may appear innocuous but is
actually designed to have major impacts on public policy.
brace yourselves. It's going to be a rough landing.