California’s legislative hypocrisy a failure of democracy
This is just one of many bills Golden State politicians used this legislative session to set themselves apart from the little people, the ones who pay their inflated salaries. Annual compensation for legislators averages about $140,000, not counting luxurious perks such as taxpayer-funded cars and free gasoline. By comparison, the average Californian earns $50,000 a year, and the unemployment rate is 11.9 percent - far above the national average. Exact salaries for state assemblymen and senators are obscured by the use of a “per diem” payment scheme that shelters a significant chunk of income from taxation.
Attempts by a handful of reformers to require politicians to provide a full annual disclosure of the benefits received from the public treasury have been rebuffed. Currently, government officials must file a statement of economic interests revealing income from any source other than a local, state or federal government agency. Gifts worth more than $50 also must be disclosed, but lawmakers rejected a bill that would have prohibited acceptance of concert and sporting event tickets, gift cards, spa treatments, golf outings and other benefits from lobbyists trying to buy votes.
Bills of this nature never meet an honest fate in which roll-call votes put members on the record as favoring or opposing each idea. Instead, reform measures are held in committee to die quietly as legislative deadlines pass. As of last week, it’s effectively impossible for a bill to become law if it hasn’t already passed in at least one of the chambers.