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Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]

Proudly Partisan
In the real world you have to choose...
[Ray Haynes] 6/9/04

A regular complaint in the media and at community meetings I attend in the district is that we legislators are “too partisan”. Every mention of a party label seems to make some people uncomfortable, as if we are suddenly over-politicizing a conversation or meeting.

Welcome to politics!

I will admit there are times when legislators will do things for the sake of party unity that otherwise would not have been done. There are things President Bush has convinced Republican Congressmen to support that they probably would not have otherwise, just as President Clinton was able to do on occasion with Democrat Members. There are also times where both parties agree on a single solution to a problem. These really are exceptions to the rule.

Members of the legislature have not chosen their political party because they think the elephant logo is cuter than the donkey or vice versa. They have worked and campaigned within their party because of the basic set of principles and policies they share with their party. Republican legislators don’t oppose burdensome regulations and higher taxes because they are Republicans---they are Republicans because they oppose burdensome regulations and higher taxes! The Democrat members have their own principles and policies to which they are equally committed.

In the Capitol, almost everybody understands this. In our home districts, it is far less obvious. The average constituent is far less political, far less ideological, and far less wedded to their party registration than their representatives in Sacramento and Washington. I have some very conservative Democrats in my district and some very liberal Republicans. In the Capitol, there is much less diversity amongst party caucus members. The most liberal Republican in the caucus is still markedly more conservative than the most conservative Democrat member, as annual report cards from conservative and liberal interest groups alike will attest.

Why does this matter? Because there are not just two distinct parties in Sacramento, but two distinct philosophies. If you look at most of the important bills that were heard over the last decade in Sacramento, they have been passed or killed on what is called a “party-line vote,” meaning all the Republicans voted one way, and all the Democrats voted another. This happened because these bills represent very distinct visions of how our state should be governed. When people do not understand that, they do not know how to interpret the actions that are taken in the Capitol.

If I’m talking to a business group and I tell them that a new minimum wage increase was just passed 46-30, and that efforts to repeal the “sue your boss” law that has been hurting businesses in California failed 2-6 in committee, they’ve learned a little about what is happening. But if I leave it at that, and they just assume that one randomly assorted group of legislators voted one way, and another randomly assorted group of legislators voted another way, and that the votes on the two bills were totally unrelated, then what should they think about how to change the results they are getting in Sacramento? Should they just replace the entire legislature and hope a new random assortment of legislators will vote differently next time?

When I tell you that both of these bills passed or failed on a strict party-line vote with all Republicans on one side, and all the Democrats on the other, it gives you important additional information. Whichever side of the issue you are on, “partisan-izing” the discussion tells you which party is on your side on this particular issue, and which is not.

If I do not tell you which party supports which agenda, and I pretend that party registration does not matter in Sacramento, then I am doing a disservice to you and am not telling you the whole truth. So long as the Democrat Party controls both houses of the legislature, a certain set of policies will continue to be more likely to be supported, and a different set will be more likely to get killed. You are free to choose if that is a good thing or not, but you must understand that before you cast your votes in November.

Maybe talk of party labels still offends you, and you would like to believe that party does not translate to policy, and that the legislature is made up of randomly assorted groups of legislators supporting randomly assorted policies. You are free to believe that, but you are only fooling yourself, so please don’t expect me to play along with the “non-partisan” game. I prefer to live in the real world—or at least what passes for the real world in Sacramento. CRO


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