Half-baked reform?

Today, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former Controller Steve Westly discuss overhauling the state's method of drawing legislative districts. Previously, they debated what impact Proposition 93 would have on legislators' time in office, the effect of the current term-limits law on California politics and why voters support term limits. Poizner and Westly will conclude their debate tomorrow.

Another year, the same broken promise By Steve Poizner

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez — the powerful legislative leaders who are behind, and stand to benefit from, Proposition 93 — have promised for years they would pass meaningful redistricting reform. In 2005, I fought hard for redistricting reform with Proposition 77. We lost, but because of that effort Perata and Nuñez personally pledged to pass redistricting reform.

As 2006 came and went without redistricting reform, these legislators pushed a new idea of combining changes to term limits with redistricting reform as a means to gain support for their effort to stay in office longer.

"We can't put one on the ballot without the other," Nuñez told reporters in 2006.

But they did. This year they broke their promise and failed — once again — to pass redistricting reform.

The need for redistricting reform to restore legislative accountability is clear. Of the 459 possible elections for state Assembly, state Senate and Congress since the 2001 gerrymander of California's legislative districts, only a single seat changed partisan hands. In those same 459 elections, only a single incumbent lost.

If Proposition 93 passes, it would weaken term limits — the one check on legislators that currently exists. It would also damage any hope for real redistricting reform.

In fact, the absence of redistricting reform is why former Gov. Pete Wilson this week announced his opposition to Proposition 93. He's absolutely correct that Proposition 93, without addressing redistricting, is "incomplete reform."

But don't take my word for it. All major newspapers in the state that have so far taken a position on Proposition 93 have come out against it, correctly describing it as a "scam." If I can be forgiven for citing other papers while writing on The Times' website, it's worth reading what these newspapers have to say about Proposition 93 and redistricting reform.

The San Jose Mercury News declared, "Expanding term limits without adopting redistricting reform will throw a system that favors incumbents further out of balance, and it will make redistricting reform all but impossible to achieve. It would be like building an airplane with one wing. The initiative deserves to crash and burn."

The Fresno Bee announced its opposition by saying, "Nuñez and Perata originally promised to couple Proposition 93 with changes in the way legislative district boundaries are drawn in California.... But as they've done before, they reneged on those promises — this time without even bothering to offer the mealy-mouthed excuses they've come up with in the past. That is enough by itself to cost them any hope of support for Proposition 93."

The Riverside Press-Enterprise opposed Proposition 93 by saying, "Prop. 93 would set the table for more of the status quo. If the measure passes, politicians with a long record of putting self-interest first will stay in place to draw the district lines after the 2010 census — shaping California elections through 2020."

Currently, Perata and Nuñez are set to be termed out. If Proposition 93 passes, Nuñez could remain as speaker until 2014 — near the end of the next governor's first term in office — and Perata could be in charge of the Senate until 2012. Proposition 93 is simply an arrogant power grab by these politicians.

The cynical politicians behind Proposition 93 don't deserve to be rewarded with more time in office. Real political and legislative reform means defeating the self-serving Proposition 93 and pursuing meaningful redistricting reform.

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner was elected in 2006 and is chairman of the No on Proposition 93 campaign.

Judge term-limits reform on its own meritsBy Steve Westly
It is legitimate to debate types of political reform for our state. However, it is important to take each issue and look at it on its own merits.

Proposition 93 promises much-needed reform to term limits in California. The overall performance of the state Legislature is hurt by our current system of term limits by not allowing legislators to gain adequate experience.

Before California had its current term-limits law, the state Legislature provided significant oversight to state agencies and scrutiny to the budget.

The statistics are telling:

  • Before term limits, the state Legislature reworked on average 20% of the budget document the governor presented. After term limits took effect, that number has dwindled to 7%.
  • After term limits took full effect, the number of audits requested by legislators of state agencies dropped by nearly half.

Oversight of the state budget and audits of state agencies are vital to ensure that government functions at peak efficiency. The decline in overall experience and the short time horizon for legislative terms have a severe impact on the ability of legislators to meet these responsibilities.

Reforming California's term-limits law will have a direct, tangible impact on the quality and quantity of oversight in the Legislature. While redistricting reform is important, the absence of companion legislation on the Feb. 5 ballot is no reason to pass up the opportunity we have in front of us right now to implement common-sense reform to our system of term limits.

The debate on redistricting in California has been raging for decades. As a matter of fact, California has had half a dozen redistricting measures in some form or another on the ballot in the past two decades. While I strongly support passing redistricting reform in 2008, that does not mean we shouldn't pass term-limits reform first.

The debate on redistricting is legitimate — and complex. Its impact is multi-dimensional. Redistricting impacts not just our Legislature, but also the rights of every voter in California as well as redistricting in other states.

The point is that both reforms have merit, but the debate and impact of each is radically different. Term-limits reform is something we can accomplish now at the state level without unduly impacting the balance of power in Congress.

Lastly, Steve, your post personalizes Proposition 93 as being about Nuñez and Perata. This measure is not about them; it's about ensuring that California has the most experienced and effective legislature possible. We face a $14 billion budget deficit, soaring healthcare costs, a badly antiquated system of water storage and delivery and a mortgage crisis; I think we can both agree that California needs legislators with experience dealing with these complex issues. This is no time for our representatives in Sacramento to be learning on the job.

Proposition 93 makes the process of legislating work better for all Californians, and thereby improves our quality of representation in Sacramento.

Steve Westly served as controller of California from 2003 to 2007 and is currently chief executive of the Westly Group, a venture capital firm that invests in clean technology companies.

<< Previous day's Dust-Up  |  Main Page  |  Next day's Dust-Up >>
Day 1  |  Day 2  |  Day 3  |  Day 4  |  Day 5

Copyright © 2018, CT Now