Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 – 9:41 am

Shannon Grove, a Republican assemblywoman from Bakersfield, is sponsoring an embryonic ballot measure to return the Legislature to a part-time body, which it was before 1966.

It’s one of dozens of proposals for the November ballot and, like most, faces an uphill struggle to qualify and win. But it could resonate with voters because of chronic dysfunction on the budget, water and other issues, and lawmakers’ very low stature in polls.

Grove contends that making them part-timers, with $18,000-a-year salaries, would “get them away from the seductive atmosphere of the Capitol dome, get them back home with family, neighbors and work, and give them a better chance, as a citizen legislator, to serve their constituents’ best interests.”

Ted Costa of People’s Advocate, a major supporter of legislative term limits 22 years ago, is co-sponsoring the Grove measure. Her argument today is similar to what voters were told then. But term limits did not cure the Legislature’s indolence.

On the flip side, former Democratic Assemblyman Dario Frommer heads the campaign against the Grove measure. He contends, “We had a part-time Legislature in California. It was widely viewed as corrupt and ineffective,” adding that if voters enact the Grove measure, “you are going to make it worse and give special interests even more sway than they hold today.”

So the debate resumes: How do we fix the Legislature? Should term limits go away, or should legislators become part-timers again? Would any simplistic nostrum improve it?

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