Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

The advent of Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the California Legislature has spawned much speculation, especially in the media, about what the majority party might do with its newly minted power.

It’s likely to be much less than those on the left hope and those on the right fear, because the margins are still fairly narrow and expanded blocs of Democratic moderates in both houses would likely not go along with anything radical, such as levying heavy new taxes.

Much less attention is being paid to three other structural changes that are more apt to alter the culture of the Capitol in 2013 and beyond: more competitive districts thanks to an independent redistricting commission; a new “top-two” primary system; and a modification of term limits, allowing newly elected legislators to spend as many as 12 years in one house.

Competitive districts and the top-two primary laid the groundwork for the surge in Democratic legislative seats beyond the two-thirds threshold, but they’re also responsible for the expansion of the moderate bloc, as backers of the two changes hoped they would.

Counterintuitively, therefore, the centrist and business interests that fostered those structural changes may have gained influence even as the Democrats’ ranks expanded.

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