George Skelton finds a nut:
The two-thirds rule is not used merely to protect taxpayers from politicians trying to reach deeper into their pockets. It’s used by special interests — mainly big business — to game the system; a tool handy for legislative leverage, or extortion. If you don’t give us what we want, we’ll withhold the votes needed for the two-thirds.
It’s about buying and selling. Last Friday, at the all-night windup of this year’s regular legislative session, Democrats weren’t in a buying mood.
This is what happened, according to Democrats, and Republicans aren’t exactly denying it: The Senate GOP blocked more than 20 bills requiring a two-thirds vote because Democrats wouldn’t cave on three unrelated demands.
This has been true for years if not decades. The 2/3 rule does not protect tax increases, it’s a tool for the Yacht Party to hijack the process. In this case, the GOP wanted to create a forced market for Intuit, makers of TurboTax; to increase the corporate tax breaks from the Februrary budget deal, in particular to help Chevron; and to make Roy Ashburn a lead author on a Democratic bill. See if you can find the word “tax increase” in there. But because the Democrats didn’t much feel like giving out even more corporate welfare or fattening the pockets of Intuit, the Yacht Party revolted. And they knocked down 20 bills, including one that would keep domestic violence shelters open throughout the state (which is nothing more than homicide prevention) by shifting available funds, and another to allow the Treasurer more leeway to renegotiate with banks and save the state $850 million dollars.
These and the other bills, again, did not involve tax increases. They were taken up under urgency requirements (so the policy takes effect immediately) or other factors, like changes to the budget, which necessitate a 2/3 vote. And the Yacht Party routinely takes advantage of this, mainly out of spite and an attempt to leverage their votes to reward their corporate backers.
Ashburn candidly defends blocking the legislation: “This was an opportunity for Republicans to have some leverage.” Concerning the merits of measures buried in the fallout: “The subject matter of bills at that point was secondary to what the [GOP] caucus had decided to do with them.”
This is a pretty startling admission. But not one anybody wasn’t aware of before now.
Skelton has deciphered the problem pretty clearly, and Democrats are well-positioned to highlight it and show the disaster of governance ushered in by the onerous 2/3 rules.