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Three new chairs for Mark DeSauliner

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, announced today that the Senate Rules Committee has approved the creation of three new select committees that he’ll chair: the Select Committee on Excellence and Innovation in State Government; the Select Committee on Restoring California’s Middle Class; and the Select Committee on Small Business and the Underground Economy.

In his news release, he had this to say about the first:

“Reforming state government and constitutional reform is imperative to solving some of the challenges we face regarding the budget and governance. We cannot just complain about a system, we must be willing to take serious steps to fix it. This includes taking a long-term, focused look at the structure of government and the way our government serves the public. Real reform won’t happen overnight. It could take years, but it must start now and we need to focus on immediate, short range and long term structural change.”

About the committee on the middle class, he said:

“By restoring the middle class we can also restore our economy. The middle class is being systematically wiped out. Most Americans are realizing less wealth and are seeing their wealth decline at an alarming rate. The chasm between prosperity and poverty has never been wider. The average income of the richest 5 percent of families in 1979 was 10 times that of the poorest 20 percent of families. In 1999, the income gap had nearly doubled to 19 times, ranking first among the developed countries, and setting a record since the Census began studying the situation in 1947.”

And about the small business and underground economy committee, he said:

“One way to restore our economy is to foster small business. Small businesses are innovative, creative, hard-working, and provide many jobs in our marketplace. I know this firsthand as a former small business owner. By examining this issue, we may be able to find ways to combat the economic loss that the underground economy brings to the State as well as small businesses. Small businesses are a driving force in California’s economy. But California’s small businesses and their workers are facing an ever-increasing danger – their ability to compete in the state and global economy is threatened by the underground economy. This underground economy plagues many of our once vital industries, drives down wages, creates harsh working conditions, and undercuts legitimate businesses to a point where they can no longer fairly compete and provide well-paying jobs to Californians.”

The way these things typically work is that DeSaulnier will reach out to his peers and figure out who’s interested in participating, and then go back to the Rules Committee to have those people appointed to these panels. Then they’ll start holding hearings, with an eye toward developing legislation most likely for next year.

I think the more cynical among us look at something like this and say, “Oh boy, just what we needed – more committees!” Kinda like the feeling you get when someone announces a new blue-ribbon commission. I wanted to ask DeSaulnier why these issues aren’t being, or can’t be, adequately addressed within the existing committees, but I haven’t heard back from him this afternoon.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.