Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Golden State Seeks Change in Political Business as Usual

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Golden State Seeks Change in Political Business as Usual

Article excerpt

POLITICAL mud-wrestling, gridlock, yearly budget stalemates: the woes of the California Legislatureare legion.

Now, in what may prove to be the most dramatic overhaul of any state government, a constitutional commission is drafting a broad set of proposed reforms to make California political institutions more accountable to voters.

The proposals range from setting biennial budgets to merging the legislature's two chambers into one, making California only the second state to have a unicameral statehouse.

After a year of study, the preliminary report of the California Constitutional Revision Committee is expected to be delivered to Gov. Pete Wilson (R) and the Legislature by mid-September. The commission, created in 1993, will present a series of constitutional amendments to California voters in 1996. Any constitutional revision, however, requires two-thirds approval in the statehouse and the governor's signature.

Riding a wave of voter dissatisfaction and an increased willingness by public officials to streamline government, 35 states over the past five years have chartered blue-ribbon panels to examine their state governments and propose reform measures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Yet experts agree that California's proposals are more ambitious and broader in scope than any other and will undoubtedly meet stiff opposition from many elected officials and special interest groups.

Fred Silva, executive director of the commission, says the group proposes to replace a divided government with one that is more responsive and efficient; and to transform the relationship between state and local governments by strengthening home rule. Under the commission's plan, the 7,000 local government bodies in California will be able to write their own charters, including the levying of their own taxes.

"The constitutional framework for government wasn't holding anyone accountable for solving problems," Mr. Silva says. …

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