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Politics

Ballot Proposal Would Make California Legislature Part-Time

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The floor of the California Assembly during a recent session. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

The floor of the California Assembly during a recent session. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

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Ann Notarangelo is an award-winning journalist and is KPIX 5's...
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SACRAMENTO (CBS 5) — The political activists who championed property tax caps and lawmaker term limits said they planned to begin circulating petitions on Thursday for a November ballot measure that would make the California Legislature a part-time body.

Ted Costa, chief executive officer of the anti-tax group People’s Advocate in Sacramento, said the initiative would also drop legislators pay from $7,940 a month to $1,500 and force lawmakers to adopt a balanced, two-year budget by June 15th each year or forfeit their pay.

Costa said he knows the Republican and Democratic parties along with chambers of commerce and labor unions will oppose the measure, but his group forsees a future where the state’s business is conducted by teachers, realtors and farmers — as opposed to career politicians.

“This is to shake them up. And we hope that other people, professional people will take 3 months out of their job and go represent us for a few years,” he explained.

While it may seem like a new idea to Californians, only 10 states actually have full-time legislatures; 23 have a hybrid model and 17 others are considered part-time. Most of those part-time states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, have the smallest populations and are more rural.

Costa maintains most of California is actually small cities and counties, pointing out that the state only has 2 or 3 big population centers.

But Sacramento-based political consultant Steve Maviglio of Forza Communications contends a part-time legislature won’t work the way People’s Advocate thinks it will.

“If you think things are bad now – it will only get worse,” he explained. “The people will have no policy skills, be here only a couple days a month.”

He cited New Hampshire’s part-time legislature as an example: the average lawmaker is age 62 and they don’t have much power.

Under such a model, Maviglio said special interest groups would become an even more powerful force at the state capitol.

“Lobbyists and special interests will really run the place, because they are the only ones who have the knowledge about how things get done,” he concluded.

(Copyright 2012 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)

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