(Photo Credit: Jessica Patterson/Flickr)
The only statewide ballot measure Californians are considering on the June 7 primary is Proposition 50, which will allow the state Legislature to suspend a member without pay – an important response when lawmakers are accused but not yet found guilty of violating the law and breaching the public trust.
In 2014, when three State Senators were under indictment, the Senate suspended them but the three continued to be paid their $95,000 annual salary because the California Constitution does not make it clear that the Legislature can suspend its members without pay.
“It’s a small, incremental change that will give legislators an ability to hold their colleagues responsible and accountable,” said Helen Hutchison, president of the League of Women Voters of California.
Other supporters agree.
“Proposition 50 is a commonsense step that would give lawmakers the authority to police their own, which is the right next step in holding all lawmakers accountable for serving the public interest,” said Caitlin Maple, research analyst at California Forward, which has been vocal in its support of the measure.
While most see Prop 50 for what it is, a small step for good government, some have complained that the potential for misuse exists, and that a partisan legislative leadership could use this authority to punish a member politically.
“To guard against political misuse, the resolution would require the threshold of a two-thirds vote for approval,” said Hutchison.
Hutchison added one more thing—she hopes the legislature never has to use the power to suspend or stop pay for one of their members because it would mean they are not conducting behavior so contrary to the public trust to require the action.
On the subject of government reform, Hutchison remarked that “we’ve been making good progress” but that the cause of good government requires constant scrutiny and action.
She points to “technologically precarious” situation facing the state’s outdated campaign finance disclosure system, Cal-Access, and the necessity to modernize it. But all in all, she’s hopeful.
“You can’t be in the good government business and not be an optimist,” Hutchison said.
And the next opportunity for California to invest in good government is passing Prop 50 next week.