State officials stress importance of viable two-party system
Although they're both in the minority party in a time when Democrats are feeling their oats in Sacramento, Yuba-Sutter legislators Jim Nielsen and Dan Logue said they believe there are ways they can be effective.
Nielsen, who won a special election earlier this month to return to the state Senate, said he plans to continue pushing for reforms in how the state budget is drawn, including a rainy-day fund and zero-based budgeting.
He is also concerned locals will feel the impact as the state continues to ship parolees and low-level felons to county jails.
"We need to have a review of all state agencies, and I believe we need to do some pruning," said Nielsen, R-Gerber. "Those agencies have become the fourth branch of government."
Assemblyman Dan Logue said he is hopeful Gov. Jerry Brown will make good on promises to rein in state regulatory agencies and steer them toward a more business-friendly approach.
But he said he is also concerned with health-care reform implementation for businesses.
"You're talking about millions and millions of people, and government has to find the money for their health care somewhere," said Logue, R-Loma Rica. "It's a potential perfect storm."
The two legislators had differing opinions on a state water bond set for the ballot next year, as Logue said he believes it will be pulled because it contains too much pork for public support.
Nielsen said there are problems with the bond. But one alternative would be worse, he said.
"I'm reluctant to have the Legislature tamper with it, for fear it'll be opened up to other interests," he said.
Even as California appears to have turned the corner on its economy and budget, there is still reform to be done, and according to leaders on both sides of the aisle, a political party to rehabilitate.
Former state finance director Darius Anderson, now the owner of several newspapers in Sonoma County, said even though he is a Democrat, the state needs a healthy Republican Party, and even more voices, to be in the best shape.
"If we don't have a viable two-party system, we have a real problem in California," said Anderson, the keynote speaker last week at a day-long gathering in Sacramento of newspaper publishers and journalism professionals.
Anderson, who said he hasn't ruled out a run for office, said the other problem facing the state's governance is a dearth of new leaders, with such familiar names as Brown, Feinstein and Boxer all in their 70s.
Earlier speakers, including the Republican leaders of the Assembly and state Senate, said even in minority-party status, they're hopeful of pushing through reforms in public employee pensions and education.
State Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said teacher unions have kept some common-sense reforms, like annual status reviews of the lowest performing teachers, from being enacted.
"We need a more robust form of teacher scrutiny," said Huff, who said his parents were teachers. "That's a pretty frightening thing, objectivity in public service." His Assembly counterpart, Assemblywoman Connie Conway, R-Tulare, said she thinks the Legislature would run better if members could introduce fewer bills, and all bills were given public scrutiny.
"Maybe if we had more focus, we could cut down on legislation and have more discussions," she said.
And maybe, more big ideas, said Anderson. Despite ideological differences, he said, both Govs. Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan had a long-term vision for California, and they worked to carry it out.
"As a state, we need to look at more people who run to govern and not just get elected," he said. "Most politicians think in terms of a two-year cycle."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.