Proposal would vastly expand Legislature

I thought I’d seen every possible suggestion for breaking California’s legislative logjam and making lawmakers more beholden to the people, from top-two primaries to redistricting to docking lawmakers’ pay to a part-time Legislature.

But this is a new one on me: Increasing the Legislature’s size almost a hundred-fold.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced that the proponent of just such a plan can start circulating petitions for his proposed ballot measure. Here’s the Attorney General’s official title and summary:

LEGISLATURE EXPANSION. LEGISLATIVE PROCESS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Increases size of Legislature almost 100-fold by dividing current Assembly and Senate districts into neighborhood districts such that each Assemblymember represents about 5,000 persons and each Senator represents about 10,000 persons. Provides for neighborhood district representatives to elect working committees the size of the current Assembly and Senate, 80 Assemblymembers and 40 Senators. Gives working committees the legislative power generally, and sole power to amend bills, but requires approval by appropriate vote of the full membership in each house for passage of any non-urgency bill. Reduces legislators’ pay and expenditures. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Decreased state spending on the Legislature of over $180 million annually. Increased county election costs, potentially in the range of tens of millions of dollars initially and lower amounts annually thereafter. (11-0067.)

Proponent John Cox has until June 1 to collect valid signatures from at least 807,615 registered California voters in order to qualify the measure for November’s ballot.

Here’s a clip of Cox explaining his idea:

This is the same John Cox who was an under-the-radar Republican presidential candidate in 2006-07, with a long history in Chicago law, real estate and conservative rhetoric; he’s now living in Rancho Santa Fe, and last month showed up on Newt Gingrich’s California finance leadership team.

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.