Just because the state legislature isn’t schedule to meet again until Jan. 7, doesn’t mean our elected elves are not hard at work. In anticipation of opening day, they are giddily churning out proposed Constitutional Amendments in the hope that this might be the magical year for change. Each amendment needs a two-thirds vote in the state senate and assembly in order to appear on a statewide ballot for possible passage.
We already have two proposals that would make it easier to levy taxes for schools and libraries. One, by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would reduce the percentage of voters needed to raise property taxes or issue bond debt to fund public libraries from a two-thirds majority to a 55 percent majority. Another, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would lower the number of votes needed to support parcel taxes for schools from two-thirds to 55 percent.
Another, introduced by Wolk and Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, prohibits any ballot initiative “from being submitted to the electors or having any effect unless and until the Legislative Analyst and the Director of Finance jointly determine that the initiative measure provides for additional revenues in an amount that meets or exceeds the net increase in costs.” DeSauliner proposed the same thing last year but it lost on the senate floor, with Republicans voting against it because it potentially hinders tax reform. A poll released earlier this month by the Public Policy of California shows that 82 percent of voters support this measure.
Back in October, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Although it has yet to issue a ruling, the case is about a white student denied admission to the university and whether the school’s consideration of race is constitutional. State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-San Gabriel Valley, has introduced an amendment that would allow California colleges to consider factors like gender, ethnicity and race to the extent permitted by the U.S. Supreme court. (In other words, our state could not have a stricter standard, which would represent a weakening of Prop. 209, which voters approved in 1996.)
Finally, Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Escondido, proposed two amendments to tighten the reins on state government. One would implement a two-year budget cycle and the other would expand the duties of the state auditor, demanding an annual review of “each state program.” Step one for the auditor: figure out how many “state programs” there are. Similar proposals by Wyland failed to get any traction last year, but you can’t blame the man for getting swept up in the excitement of the possible like everyone else.
“You are the people born with MySpace, grew into Facebook, now that’s old school; now we’re on to Instagram, or whatever you guys are doing out there.”
— Sarah Lawson, from the Office of the Attorney General at the Wednesday “Legischool” event at the Capitol, where young people asked social media questions of policymakers. As this quote indicates, the grown-ups were flatfooted and the students ended up doing the teaching