By Dan Walters The Sacramento Bee
Published: Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Nearly 90 percent of California voters believe that state government needs an overhaul to make it more effective, a new statewide poll found, with virtually identical numbers among Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Just 5.5 percent of voters surveyed by Datamar, an El Cajon polling firm, agreed that state government is “fine the way it is. Exactly what kind of reform voters want is less certain, as the Datamar poll found.

It tested four widely discussed areas of potential reform: overhauling the initiative system, the “top two” primary election system that will be on the June ballot, making it easier for the Legislature to act, and changing Proposition 13.

Changing the primary system rated the highest at 56.9 percent, but even the least popular, overhauling Proposition 13, scored 43.3 percent.

“Voters want reform, overwhelmingly so,” Datamar concluded, “and members of both political parties and independents alike are clamoring for options.”

Ironically, just a few days before Datamar released its polling results, sponsors of ballot measures that would call a constitutional convention to overhaul state government called it quits, saying they could not generate money to collect enough signatures.

The constitutional convention originated with the Bay Area Council, a consortium of corporate executives who, during a visit to Sacramento two years ago, were stunned to find a Capitol incapable of dealing with major issues.

The Bay Area Council and a somewhat rival group, California Forward, have stirred up a flurry of journalistic reportage and commentary, academic conferences, civic debates – and even a couple of books – about California’s well-documented crisis of governance.

The question has been whether any of that notoriety would lead to something concrete, such as a constitutional convention or a series of reform ballot measures. Chances that they will, it appears, are scant.

There is a new independent commission to redistrict the Legislature after the 2010 census, but it would be erased if one pending ballot measure has its way.

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