Friday, May 21, 2004

There's that word again

See it down there? "Part-time?"

From yesterday's OC Register:

Frittering legislators
The Legislature needs to get serious about budget reform and stop wasting
its time passing frivolous bills.

The California Legislature needs to get serious about its job. Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger presented his May revision budget proposal on May 15 and
Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill presented her analysis on May 17.

The Legislature should be devoting its full attention to the budget instead
of frittering away time passing mundane or counterproductive bills. Much
still needs to be done to eliminate a structural deficit that Ms. Hill
estimates to be $8 billion a year. Even Democrats who like spending money
should want to to eliminate waste and pork.

Yes, there is some good news. On May 18, 17 Senate Democrats signed a public
letter written by Sen. Jackie Speier of Daly City that called for
withdrawing funding for the state prison guards' whopping 11 percent pay
raise scheduled for fiscal 2004-05, which begins July 1. That raise was part
of the 34 percent raise through 2006 Gov. Gray Davis signed in 2002 with the
prison guards' union. The union gave Gov. Davis more than $2.6 million in
campaign contributions.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has said reducing the raises could save up to $300
million. Although the senators' letter is not law, their action, because the
17 are Democrats, gives the governor bipartisan clout to negotiate a compact
with the guards that would help solve the state's budget problems.

On the negative side, however, the Legislature continues to waste energy on
harmful, needless and trivial legislation. Here are some of the
time-wasters, beginning with three cell-phone bills:

SB 1800 (Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles) passed the Senate May 18. It says
a "person shall not operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner that results from
engaging in a distracting activity while driving," including such activities
as using a cell phone, "adjusting the controls of an audio or other
entertainment device," smoking, "interacting with children, animals,
passengers or objects in the vehicle." This is silly micromanaging. Existing
reckless driving laws are adequate.

SB 1582 (Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach) would ban drivers under age 18 from
using cell phones. Again, existing reckless driving laws are adequate. And
few cell-addicted teens will comply, making them scofflaws. It will be heard
in the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 20.

AB 2785 (Assemblyman George Nakano, D-Redondo Beach) would ban bus drivers
from talking on cell phones. This might be a good policy, but it should be
decided by local school districts. On May 17 the Assembly approved it.

AB 1854 (Joseph Simitian, D-Palo Alto) would mandate that headlights must be
turned on during "inclement weather." Like many bills, this one assumes that
Californians are idiots. It passed the Assembly on May 17.

SB 1652 (Sen. Murray of Los Angeles) would require, after Jan. 1, 2006, that
new developments with 25 or more single-family homes must have "an
unspecified percentage" of homes (to be determined in a later rewrite of the
bill) that have "solar photovoltaic energy system" providing about half the
electricity the home uses. Proponents say the added cost of from $11,000 to
$20,000 would be amortized over time through lower electricity costs of
about $55 per month. But the market should decide such matters - especially
with sky-rocketing housing costs in California making housing less
affordable every day. The Senate passed the bill May 17.

If any of these bills passes both houses of the Legislature, we recommend
that Gov. Schwarzenegger veto them. He needs to send a message to the
Legislature that it needs to stop wasting its time - and stop harassing free
Californians.

These bills also show why he's right to support making the Legislature
part-time. Then it might cause less mischief.

-- A-ha - now you see it. They do sound like kinda dumb laws, don't they? No, wait, some of them sound like good ideas, but should all good ideas be codified? What do you think? --

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