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A constitutional amendment to make California's Legislature a part-time body was introduced this week. The initiative is being proposed by Republican lawmaker, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove and the head of a political watchdog group called People’s Advocate.
Under the proposal, the Legislature would meet for about three months of the year and would cut legislators' salaries from $7,940 per month to $1,500 per month -- or $18,000 annually. The measure was filed with the state Attorney General's Office, a first step toward launching a campaign to gather the 807,615 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.
Separately, two Republican Assembly members have vowed to make a legislative push next year for lawmakers to serve part time. California has had a full-time Legislature for more than four decades, stemming from passage of a 1966 constitutional amendment by state voters. Pros and cons of a part-time Legislature have been debated for years by politicians and Capitol analysts.
Proponents of the current system have said that weakening the Legislature by making it part-time would increase lawmakers' reliance on lobbyists and expand the power of state government's other two branches -- the Governor's office and courts. In addition, they argue that a full-time Legislature also say that it allows better and more consistent oversight of education, law enforcement, fire services, health care and other vital public services.
The representative for People’s Advocate, Ted Costa, say the change is needed because Californians already disapprove of the Legislature's performance, and they'll be particularly angry if a proposed multibillion-dollar tax increase appears on the same ballot as the part-time Legislature plan. Grove and Costa declined to identify financial backers of his campaign, but predict there will be sufficient funds for signature-gathering to qualify the constitutional amendment for the ballot. Specifically, the constitutional amendment would:
The initiative declares that a part-time Legislature is necessary partly because current lawmakers are too beholden to special interests and unable to pass a balanced budget on time."A part-time Legislature will reduce the number of unnecessary and self-serving bills and will result in a more responsible and accountable government," the measure says in its findings and declarations.
Separately, Republican Assemblymen Martin Garrick of Solana Beach and Dan Logue of Penn Valley have said they will introduce legislation next year that would ask voters to switch to a part-time Legislature. Passage of such measures would require a two-thirds vote.