Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jul. 1, 2014 – 12:00 am
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jul. 1, 2014 – 12:15 am

Eighty years ago, California voters tightened up the state’s weak civil-service system to counter the corrupt practice of politicians padding public payrolls with family members, friends and political supporters.

However, the Legislature was exempted from the ballot measure’s provisions.

Later, when laws on open records, open meetings and collective bargaining were imposed on state and local governments, the Legislature exempted itself.

Over several decades, mostly in response to journalistic revelations, the Legislature has slowly granted access to its once-closed records on how it spends money on itself.

The Legislature still exempts itself, however, from open-meeting laws. If a majority of a city council meets privately to discuss city business other than a few specific matters, it’s a criminal violation. But majorities of Assembly or Senate members routinely hold private “caucuses” to orchestrate what they’ll do publicly and it’s perfectly legal.

Back to that civil-service exemption.

It allows members of the Legislature, and the senior managers they employ, to hire whomever they wish for whatever reason.

Not surprisingly, the Legislature is therefore infested with the same kind of personal and political patronage that civil service was adopted to prevent.

It’s common knowledge that legislators hand staff jobs to political operatives, but as a lengthy article by Sacramento Bee reporter Laurel Rosenhall details, the inside game appears to involve senior legislative staffers as well.

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