Reducing Republican Budget Obstruction Made a Big Difference in 2013

Successful legislative year made possible with stable budget, decreased GOP obstruction

by Brian Leubitz

Even if you only judge a legislative session on landmark legislation, 2013 was a banner year. The long awaited immigrant drivers license bill finally came to fruition. The minimum wage increase will make a big difference for large swaths of Californians. The LIFE Act gun safety legislation will help make guns a bit more safe, while continuing the pressure for thorough federal legislation.

You may notice that this year also featured a relatively smooth budget process, and few of the late night negotiation sessions which continually marked the last decade. George Skelton thinks that some of the structural reforms are staring to kick in:

It helped, of course, to be freed from a years-long budget crisis. No longer are the governor and legislators preoccupied with fighting over which public services to whack. Credit past cutting, a recovering economy and Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase last year.

But just as important, some recent voter-enacted reforms are starting to take hold. Specifically:

• Looser term limits. Allowed to serve 12 years in one house, new legislators aren’t arriving in the Capitol searching for their next job. They have a greater sense of stability.

Skelton then goes on to point to the redistricting commission and the top two primary system before lauding Gov. Brown’s previous experience as a tool for legislative success. It is hard to argue with any of these, except maybe Top 2. I’m not sure that any of the Dem on Dem races would have really changed all that much on any of these major pieces of legislation. Would Betsy Butler or Michael Allen have voted that differently, or really changed the tenor of the debate? I would submit that Top 2 really doesn’t accomplish all that much except create a whole lot more of campaign spending.

But, on the flip side, it seems apparent that the biggest one really was the redistricting in that it enabled Democrats to capture supermajorities, even if only temporary. It put the Republicans in a mood to work across lines if they cared to get anything major done. There were to be no trailer bills to save their priorities this year, as Prop 30 meant that the state wasn’t seeking new revenue and Prop 25 meant that the Democrats weren’t looking for Republican budget votes.

In a more perfect world, we would have a sane and robust political opposition. But the GOP, statewide and nationally, has opted for a position outside of the mainstream. And for California that means that the state is better off with them in a minority position where they are unable to obstruct the real work needed for Californians.