Legislature will pursue governance reforms

California legislative leaders and a bipartisan reform group today announced plans to pursue broad portions of the contents of California Forward’s two governance reform initiatives. (Watch video of the press conference below.)

A list of nearly two dozen reforms include reducing from two-thirds to a majority the voting threshold for a state budget, limiting the number of bills members may introduce each session, extending local sales tax voting authority under certain circumstances and implementing. performance-based budgeting. (See the full list at the bottom of this entry.)

It’s an open question as to which of these reforms will make it onto the ballot, an act which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. But Republicans are dead set against changing the two-thirds threshold as it is their biggest leverage as the minority party.

Here’s the press conference video:

Click through for the detailed hand-out from the Legislature on the package:

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Constitutional Convention effort ends

The campaign to put a Constitutional Convention ballot measure on the November ballot has come to end. Backers say they have run out of money.

“The challenge has been that the high level of citizen interest did not match the financial commitment,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, the chief organizer of the campaign. “As a result, we have to press the pause button.”

Repair California was gathering signatures for two ballot measures that would have convened a Constitutional Convention and charged its members with rewriting the way the state governs itself.

The group needed nearly 2 million signatures by mid-April in order to qualify the measures for the November ballot.

Wunderman, whose members at the Bay Area Council pledged $2 million to the effort, pointed to the poor economy.

Campaign manager Clint Reilly estimated it would cost as much as $4 million to gather the signatures but they had only raised $1 million.

“We were not even close,” Reilly said during a press conference this morning in San Francisco.


Another constitutional convention town hall

Alameda County Supervisors Nate Miley and Scott Haggerty are partnering with the Bay Area Council, Repair California and the Alameda County Citizens for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities to convene the county’s third Constitutional Convention Town Hall from 6 to 9 p.m. this Monday, Dec. 7 in the Dublin council chambers, 100 Civic Plaza in Dublin.

The event will include panel discussions on what a California Constitutional convention’s goals should be and what it’ll take to call such a convention, as well as opportunities for public testimony and a question-and-answer session.

Repair California – a coalition set up by the Bay Area Council to push for a convention – has submitted to the state Attorney General’s office two proposed ballot measures for the November 2010 election: One would amend the constitution to let voters, rather than the Legislature, call a convention, and the other would actually call it.

If these measures make it onto the ballot and are approved by voters, the convention would be held in 2011 and whatever reforms it proposes would require voter approval in 2012. The convention would be specifically prohibited from proposing tax increases or from considering changes to social issues such as marriage, abortion, gambling, affirmative action, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, immigration, or the death penalty.

Monday’s meeting’s organizers say similar meetings in Alameda County and across California, as well as Web-based conversations, seem to show that Californians want changes in governance, including the structure of the Legislature and executive branch; in elections, including the initiative process, campaign finance and term limits; in the budget, including the two-thirds legislative vote, the budget’s term and balancing, and mandated spending; and in revenue distribution, including the relationship between state and local governments.

Attendance is free, and registration starts at 5:15 p.m. I’ve been to one of these already, in September in Oakland – it was extremely well-attended, and thoughtful, but like all things political, it’s easy to get bogged down in partisan rancor. I see that notice of Monday’s meeting has already gone out on the Meetup list of the SF Bay 912 Project, a group of Glenn Beck-inspired, tea-partying conservatives. “Let’s NOT let the LIBS outnumber us and set the agenda — I know it’s a weeknight and everyone has other things to do but try to be there,” the group’s organizer urged.


Guv gets ‘transpartisan’ award

A national organization opposed to new restrictions on the citizen’s initiative process today gave Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger kudos for vetoing four bills that would have, among other things, banned the use of paid signature-gatherers.

The Virginia-based Citizens in Charge Foundation awarded the governor with the November 2009 John Lilburne Award, so-named after a 17th Century pamphleteer and political activist.

Schwarzenegger helped coin the term post-partisanship. But Citizens in Charge describes itself as a transpartisan organization.

Uh, what’s a transpartisan?

I asked and the organization directed me to the Transpartisan Alliance’s Web site, where it says:

Transpartisanship acknowledges the validity of truths across a range of political perspectives and seeks to synthesize them into an inclusive, pragmatic whole beyond typical political dualities. In practice, transpartisan solutions emerge out of a new kind of public conversation that moves beyond polarization by applying proven methods of facilitated dialogue, deliberation and conflict resolution. In this way it is possible to achieve the ideal of a democratic republic by integrating the values of a democracy — freedom, equality, and a regard for the common good, with the values of a republic — order, responsibility and security.

Okay. That all sounds good, although I’m still trying to get my mind around the fact that there is such a thing as a Transpartisan Alliance.

Read on for the full press release.

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Constitutional reform group hires Clint Reilly

Veteran political consultant Clint Reilly has been hired to help run the campaign for two constitutional reform ballot initiatives.

Reilly will move from volunteer adviser to paid consultant at Repair California, a group founded by the Bay Area Council that wrote two ballot measures it hopes to place before voters in the November 2010 election. If approved, the initiatives call for the convening of a Constitutional Convention limited to governance reforms.

Read on for the press release.

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Bay Area Council commits $2 million to reform initiatives

Repair California, a coalition preparing two Constitutional Convention initiatives for the November 2010 ballot, will receive $2 million from its chief sponsor, the Bay Area Council.

Steven Hill, a coalition member and director of the political reform program at the New America Foundation, made the announcement a few minutes ago at a constitutional reform convention in Sacramento. It represents about half of what the group estimates it will need to run a successful initiative campaign.

Hill also outlined some of of the details of the planned initiatives, which he said will be filed with the state in the next 10 days.

The first initiative authorizes the voters to call a Constitutional Convention, an act restricted under current law to the Legislature. The second measure convenes a convention limited to the review of governance issues. Its recommended reforms would come back to voters in subsequent elections.

The measure assigns the management of the convention to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

But one of the most discussed components of the draft measure has been how to select the delegates.

The final language is still in what Hill called the “tweaking” stage but he said the coalition is strongly leaning toward a hybrid selection of 435 delegates to a Constitutional Convention. A portion of the members would be appointed by the state’s 58 county boards of supervisors. The balance would be randomly, scientifically selected citizens from throughout the state.”

“It’s like Willie Wonka getting the golden ticket,” Hill told the group. “Everyone is going to want to participate … I wouldn’t be surprised if reality TV shows crop up around the delegates. ”

The convention would cost $1.50 per Californian or about $55 million, Hill also said.