Tomorrow the State Assembly returns after a 50-day hiatus. On the day we left, I spoke about the Legislature’s important role managing the challenges ahead of us.
The Assembly’s leadership, it turns out, had a different role in mind: None.
The collapse of California government into one-man rule has been as much an abdication of responsibility by the Legislature as an assumption of power by the Governor. The Legislature sat on the sidelines as “the executive has seized almost complete control over state government,” wrote George Skelton of the LA Times.
This only emboldened Governor Newsom, who falsely belittled the Legislature as the “second of three branches” and has spent several times more money than we authorized – including a secret $1 billion contract with China’s disreputable BYD company.
As millions of Californians became accustomed to Zoom, the Legislature offered no forum for deliberation or public engagement. Joe Matthews, Editor at Zocalo Public Square, wrote that “legislators are doing less than California schoolchildren, who are being made to do their lessons remotely.”
Even as we return, each committee will have a single hearing, and floor sessions are cancelled indefinitely. This makes it impossible to adequately represent my half million constituents.
We could make up lost time by working through our usual fall recess, but there’s no appetite for that. Even as some suggest an early start to the next school year, it’s apparently not in the cards for the Legislature to rearrange its own schedule.
Instead, the legislative calendar is being truncated in the worst possible way: committee chairmen are unilaterally throwing out hundreds of bills without a hearing, without a vote, without explanation. There is no standard for which bills get heard. As one would expect, though, special interests are having no trouble with their priorities.
In short, the Legislature is putting its typical undemocratic practices on steroids. I’ll be fighting to bring checks and balances back to our Capitol. As a start, I’m calling for a process of reviewing which of the Governor’s more than 35 executive orders are properly within the scope of his emergency powers. The era of one-person government is over.