Proposition 58: What Happened?
The behavior of the Legislature has not changed in a decade. As a body, the Legislature is uninterested in working on the problems faced by the State, is incapable of creating a State budget, and feels free to ignore the laws of the State.
In 2004 we passed Proposition 58, The California Balanced Budget Act, in an attempt to force the Legislature to do its job. Clearly Prop. 58 is a failure, as the State has not had a single on-time budget since it passed. Today the situation is worse: we have a rogue legislative body, and ineffective executive, and a State Constitution that is routinely ignored by those sworn to uphold and defend it. We have no state budget, and no prospect for a state budget any time this year.
Proposition 58 failed because it had no teeth. At the time of passage, there was already a requirement in the State Constitution that a balanced budget be passed. The Legislature ignored the existing requirement with no fear of any consequences. Now the Legislature ignores more of the State Constitution with no fear of any consequences. The Legislature ignores the requirement that no legislation can be acted on during a Prop. 58 Fiscal Emergency by declaring the existence of a second, parallel session of the Legislature. There is no wording anywhere in the State Constitution that provides for multiple parallel sessions of the Legislature. Certainly there is no form of punishment for such behavior, so it goes on.
Proposition 58 has another weakness. The Legislature can, in a proclaimed Fiscal Emergency, declare that anything at all is a balanced budget, and sent it to the Governor. The Legislature can send a menu from the local Denny’s, or a dictionary, or a roll of toilet paper to the Governor, and declare that a balanced budget has been passed. The Governor must then examine the roll of toilet paper, and show that it is not a balanced budget. In the mean time, the Legislature goes on to act on other bills.
Recall that Proposition 58 was passed by the voters as a Constitutional Amendment exactly to stop this sort of nonsense. Check the details yourself; the original Voter Information Guide is still on-line http://primary2004.sos.ca.gov/propositions/prop58-title.html
There are two obvious solutions to this mess. First, we can elect honest, hard-working men and women that will put aside partisan bickering, obey the State Constitution, and do the hard work that needs to be done. Do not hold your breath while waiting for this to happen. The second option is to modify Proposition 58 to provide for real punishment.
The California Legislature has shown that is not interested in obeying the law, so the punishment must be effective at changing the behavior of individual legislators. Nothing will be more effective at changing an individual’s behavior than the death penalty. It is hard to envision anything else that might be effective. I propose that for each day a balanced budget is late, one member from the Assembly and one member from the Senate should be selected randomly and be brought to the Capitol building then hung from the neck until dead.
This proposed modification of Prop 58 would assure on-time balanced budgets. Is there any other method that would do so?