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Another “Through the Looking Glass” Week
The process is broken…
[Ray Haynes] 4/10/06

I know this happens every year in the Legislature, and sometimes I think that those who read my weekly discussion on Sacramento must get bored that I keep saying the same things over and over.

Then I realize, the news media does not report these events. In fact, I think that people wouldn’t believe it if the newspaper or television did report it. As I walk through the halls of the Capitol, I feel a little like Alice as she walked through Wonderland. I know I have seen a number of the white rabbits (who are always looking at their watch, and claiming to be late), and I am certain that several of my colleagues will fit the description of the Mad Hatter. At least one of the committee chairs fits the description of the Queen (off with their heads), and I won’t tell you who I think fits the description of the King.


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]

All that said, this week the Legislature began its hearings on a number of bills attempting to change the law in this state. We have been in session since January, and began introducing legislation since then. We only started hearings this week.

I have to say that I disagree with how we do our job. Each legislator introduces a bill which, more often than not, makes a small, technical change in one section of the over 50 volumes of laws (each volume is at least 500 pages). The legislative committee looks at that one bill. The interest groups and the public each come before the committee and comment on the bill. Extensive lobbying, letter writing, and telephone calling are focused on the bill. Then the committee makes a decision on that bill, usually without reference to how that bill impacts the rest of the code.

The Legislature will consider about 2,500 bills per year. Interestingly enough, each committee will sit dormant for about 3 months, and then will consider their entire calendar of bills in just 3 weeks. As a result, each bill will only get about 10 minutes of discussion. That means that proponents and opponents get about 3 minutes each to say why they like or don’t like the bill, and the Legislator usually gets about 4 minutes to say why he or she introduced the bill. The committee then gets to ask questions, which are usually interrupted by the committee chair constantly reminding everyone that the committee has a long calendar, and, if everyone keeps asking questions, the committee will be there all night. Being human, the members of the committee usually want to get out of the meeting.

I put up a bill this week which would require anyone convicted of drunk driving more than once to put a red license plate on any car he or she drives to identify him or her as a potential traffic hazard. More than 1,400 people were killed last year from drunk drivers (up 38 percent from just three years ago) and over 30,000 people were arrested on a multiple offense. I thought this might be one small measure that might save lives.

I had 20 people who wanted to tell the committee about the pain and loss they have suffered as a result of drunk driving. The committee chair only allowed one victim to speak. I was given 5 minutes to make the case for my bill. When I tried to negotiate on behalf of my bill, I was cut off and told that I had had my chance to speak. This is what constitutes discussion and debate in Sacramento.

You may or may not like my bill. That is not the point. The process is broken. It is one of the reasons why Sacramento has literally passed through the looking glass. -CRO-


Mr. Haynes is a California Assembleyman representing Riverside and Temecula and frequent contributor to


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