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Think Again: Political irresponsibility

September 21, 2010

The California Legislature ended its session a couple of weeks ago with a lot of unfinished business, most importantly without passing a budget, which is in violation of the state's Constitution.

This is irresponsible of both Democrats and Republicans, especially because we have one of the 10 largest economies in the world and certainly the largest of any state. It's no wonder that voter approval of our state Legislature is below 10%, a record low. Something is very broken in Sacramento.

We are in dire need of authentic leadership. We need leadership with vision, character and capacity, especially the ability to build consensus to achieve solutions to big problems. I've been thinking whether this is possible given how ugly and polarized politics has become, thus discouraging talented people from entering the political arena.

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One thing is clear: Voters are furious with this situation. Legislators, rather than tackling the most difficult and critical issues, instead seem to be playing on the sidelines with less important legislation. It reminds me of what I sometimes used to do growing up where I would busy myself with anything but my real homework. I quickly learned that leads to Ds and Fs, so I changed my ways, especially after a few stern lectures from my parents. It's time for Sacramento to meet the parents — the voters.

Thousands of bills are introduced during each session of the Legislature, with a majority going nowhere. This is congesting the legislative system to the point of paralysis. The purpose of introducing bills seems to have changed from setting policy to instead serving special interests or self-promotion.

Here's an example. After the city of Bell fiasco — where the exorbitant salary of former Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams became known — questions arose about Glendale's liability for Adams' retirement pension. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, representing Glendale, rightfully introduced legislation in August that would protect cities from unjust pension obligations based on another city's significantly higher pay for that same person, sometimes referred to as pension "spiking." It's a good idea, but the problem is the bill was introduced weeks before the session was to expire so couldn't have realistically been addressed in such a short time.

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