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Archive for the ‘Bay Area Council’ Category



The Death and Possible Re-Birth of Negotiation

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Whether or not the dozen California Republican legislators (more than enough for a minyan!) who have refused to join the politically suicidal Taxpayers Caucus are all modern day Pharisees, Gov. Jerry Brown was not far off the mark comparing them to Nicodemus ben Gurion, the prominent Jewish elder who is said to have met with Jesus under cover of night to avoid the risk of ostracism.*

“I’m not going to blow their cover,” Brown said of the individuals he’s been meeting with – those who have declined to drink the Kool Aid being dispensed by the Grover Norquist-inspired Ostrich Phalanx and henchmen, like our pal Jon Fleischman.

The small band of savvy Republicans appear to get that a) they are in a position to extract at least some of their cherished goals in exchange for merely voting to put Brown’s tax extensions on the June ballot and b) their old world is rapidly changing, because of the new rules of redistricting and the top-two primary system, so they can’t afford to stand in the doorway and block up the hall.

As Rob Stutzman, the Republican strategist who advised Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor, put it: “They have more leverage than they’ve had at any time arguably over the last decade.” But then guys like Stutzman and Jim Brulte, the former legislative leader, are old-school pols who believe, like Ronald Reagan did, that you negotiate to reach agreement and that agreement – i.e. governance — is a good thing.

At a time when “compromise” has been stricken from the actions and vocabulary of Tea Partiers in Washington and the intransigent governor of Wisconsin (except as a pejorative to attack those who disagree with their rigid stances), the efforts to strike a deal by a handful of GOP legislators in Sacramento is a smart and responsible move, both as policy and as politics.

By bucking the unrelenting pressure of no-compromise apparatchiks and no-tax ideologues in their party’s extremist wing, these Republicans – like Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Tom Berryhill, and Bob Huff, to name a few — have set the stage for a political counter-narrative to the bitter union-busting drama being played out in Madison, and the looming threat of a federal government shut-down by Congress under Weeper of the House John Boehner.

If the GOP’s Responsible Caucus can wring enough legislative concessions from Brown to justify the intraparty flak they’ll take for helping him pass the key element of his plan – a statewide vote on extending $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees – they also will have a dealt a major blow to the politics of deadlock that have dominated California for a generation.

Urging them on – with visions of business-friendly reforms dancing in their heads – are groups like the Bay Area Council, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and even the California Chamber.

It should be noted, by the way, that Brown’s problem is not just with Republicans. Forces on the Democratic left are extremely upset about the massive spending cuts Brown has already extracted and, if the Republicans seeking a deal overplay their hand and some interest group – the California Teachers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Service Employees International Union, or any other – decides to oppose whatever deal Brown negotiates, the whole thing could explode.

A way out — our sources are betting — is at best a 50-50 proposition.

As Steve Glazer, Brown’s senior adviser told Calbuzz over the weekend: “We’re sitting on bar stools in a foot of gasoline and everybody’s got a match.”

The ossification of Sacramento was created by a battery of political circumstances, including some so-called “reforms,” that together had the unintended consequence of bogging down the Capitol in the gridlock of polarization and partisanship. The key ingredients in hardening the political cement are 1) diminished party registration 2) non-competitive elections and 3) term limits.

Add to these closed primaries, campaign contribution limits that don’t apply to interest groups and a cable-driven coarsening of political dialogue and you have a recipe for impasse. That’s how we arrived at a situation where negotiation is seen as collaboration and compromise is regarded as capitulation.

Ironically, the sudden willingness of at least a few members of the minority to consider compromise, negotiation and deal-making to be useful and acceptable tools, in place of the just-say-no obstructionism that has long marked the GOP position, may itself have been triggered by two new reforms: a new, non-partisan citizens commission that is redistricting the state and a new “top-two” primary system are both designed to encourage more moderate politics; they may be working even before they’ve fully taken effect.

“With open primaries in redistricted seats in a presidential election all the old rules are out the door,” said Brulte.

Diminished party registration, wherein moderates and those with loose party affiliations have registered in ever greater numbers as Decline to State (independent of a party), has meant that those who still vote in their party primaries are the most ideological, the most partisan and the most intractable voters in any particular political jurisdiction.

In October 1994, Democrats had 49% of registration, Republicans 37% and DTS 10%. In October 2010, Democrats were 44%, Republicans 31% and DTS 20%. Who left the Democratic and Republican parties (or chose not to join them)? Moderates who didn’t want to be part of the left and right wings of the electorate.

So those who won their party primaries – and thus those eventually elected to the Assembly and state Senate – reflected (and shaped) the ideological cast of their districts.  Legislators who refuse to negotiate toward an agreement are, in many cases, perfectly reflecting the narrow electorate – in existing districts — who sent them to Sacramento. It’s the hard core who’s voting.

Non-competitive seats, partially a function of gerrymandering and partly a function of living patterns of the California population, have ensured the election, re-election, and re-re-election of the same voices and interests year in and year out.

One liberal may replace another; one conservative may follow a predecessor, but the ideological shape and tone and color remains the same. The general election means little in most cases because all the action is during the primary. If an incumbent – or a candidate who appears to be an incumbent because he or she served in a different office – is in the race, you can all but forget about it.

Few seats are actually competitive and where they are, it’s almost always just in the race to see who gets to represent the party in November.

Term limits have a compounded negative effect. On the one hand, they drive those just elected to spend ever greater amounts of time planning for their re-election and advancement to another seat in a different house. On the other hand, they leave Sacramento with a neophyte corps of legislators who have no institutional knowledge, no long-term commitment, no real power base in their own communities and less knowledge than the permanent legislative staff and the army of lobbyists who are always on the case.

Moreover, leadership is a joke: it’s almost impossible to enforce caucus discipline, it’s increasingly difficult to speak with one voice for either party, “leaders” are in place long enough to get a cup of coffee and replaced before they’ve found the secret drawer in the big desk or learned the name of the janitor who empties their trash can.

Coupled with campaign contribution limitations that don’t apply to interest groups, term limits mean that instead of the special interests needing the lawmaker, it’s the other way around – legislators need the special interests more than the pleaders need them.

And Now for Something
Completely Different

The handful of GOP legislators who are quietly (secretly) negotiating with Gov. Brown just may get this: by the end of August, the non-partisan redistricting of California legislative boundaries should be completed and the next round of elections will not involve party primaries but a top-two system of electing candidates.

We may even see big labor begin to play a role in what used to be Republican districts. Sources tell Calbuzz there’s talk in the labor community about spending in districts where particular legislators have made it a point to work against their interests.

Candidates who are identified as obstructionist or worse, responsible for massive teacher layoffs, shorter school years, public safety cutbacks, closed state parks, etc., are going to have one hell of a time picking up enough moderate and independent votes to keep their offices. They will NOT be running in tailored districts and they won’t have a free shot at a party position.

You gotta wonder how smart it is to rely on right-wing operators, who ask, like FlashReport’s Fleischman, if “The CalChamber is Ready to Betray Taxpayers Again?” As a Republican, just exactly what is your base if you can’t include the Chamber of Commerce?

No wonder Flash and his cronies on the right are hoping at the GOP convention to change the Republican Party’s rules to give central committees the power to dub candidates official GOP standard bearers. That may their only weapon and frankly, we’re not sure, even if they can adopt this Soviet Rule, that it would do the trick for their people.

As Steve Harmon of the Contra Costa Times so ably noted, the notion that Republicans who voted for tax hikes under Gov. Arnold Schwarzmuscle were driven from office is mostly bunk. “Of the six Republicans who voted for taxes (in 2009), only one later went on to defeat in a Republican primary. Two captured GOP nominations in statewide contests, another was elected to a county post and two others dropped out of politics.”

And that was before redistricting and the top-two primary system. And before Brown, who was allowed to dispense his vows of poverty and chastity in order to leave the seminary, offered dispensation to any Republicans who signed the GOP anti-tax pledge.

* It was to Nicodemus, as reported in the Gospel of John (3:16), that Jesus, after saying that man must be reborn in faith, offered this central concept: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Where’s Wald…. uh, Political Reform in California?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

By Richie Ross
Special to Calbuzz

Remember the dot com bust?  Lots of people invested lots of money in lots of web stuff that didn’t end up doing much.

Too many of them were selling e-stuff about selling e-stuff.  They didn’t make real stuff.  They didn’t create value.  They were based on processes. And in the end, their over-priced stocks weren’t worth anything.  The dot com bubble burst.

For the last 18 months there’s been lots of breathless chatter about the need to “reform” California government, especially the two-thirds vote requirement.

Leading the charge for reform was Waldo.  You know him. He’s the geeky guy in the red-and-white striped shirt, glasses and knit cap who’s hard to locate.  So where was Waldo?

The signs of Waldo’s reform bubble busting surfaced last year.

First, the Bay Area Council announced that their much-discussed Constitutional Convention wouldn’t address Proposition 13 and its two-thirds vote requirement.

Then on January 14, one of the Bay Area Council’s key corporate sponsors, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced they had qualified their initiative to expand the two-thirds vote requirement to communities seeking to establish or expand a public power alternative to PG&E’s monopoly.

Finally, on February 13, we read that the Constitutional Convention effort had “fizzled.” The Bay Area Council “didn’t have the money” to qualify the initiatives necessary to allow a vote on having a Convention.

PG&E went on to spend $46 million on Proposition 16.  Where was Waldo?

Before rushing to mount a high horse and condemn PG&E, let’s take a moment for introspection.  Was PG&E unique in their insincere association with “good government reform” throughout 2009 followed by a banal display of self-interest?

All through 2009, California Forward competed for the “Waldo Top Reformer” title with the Bay Area Council.

But when it came down to it, they too tried to put together a “reform” which would expand the two-thirds beyond taxes and apply it to fees adopted by the legislature for environmental protection.

Putting aside both their motivation or the merits of whatever they thought they were doing, California Forward put themselves in a position where they were compromised on the two-thirds vote debate… they couldn’t attack Proposition 16 even if they were inclined.

And why did the No on 16 campaign only raise $90,000?

If the campaign against Proposition 16 had a dollar for every speech ever made about the evil of two-thirds, then it would have been able to compete against PG&E.  Thank God the newspapers stepped up their game and did a good job exposing the Proposition 16 scam.  Waldo didn’t.

PG&E is a big political contributor.  They give tons of money.  Lots and lots of that money goes to politicians who give speeches condemning the two-thirds vote.  But outside of three or four elected folks who contributed to the No on 16 campaign, PG&E bought silence.  Yes, even Waldo’s.

It seems that interest groups only oppose the two-thirds vote when it hurts their own stuff, not because of some high-minded majority-rule principle.

If the two-thirds vote violates what people think is right, why wouldn’t people who’ve taken PG&E’s money have donated it to the No on 16 campaign?

In the end, everyone talked more than they cared.  And some talked out of both sides of their mouth.

Next up:  all of those who did nothing will point to Proposition 16’s defeat as proof that the two-thirds vote is unpopular and ought not apply to their “stuff.”  Hmmm.

Waldo the Reformer’s bubble has burst.  Like the dot com bubble, there wasn’t much to it.

Richie Ross’s controversial Calbuzz piece on using the baseball arbitration system to deal with the state budget is looking better and better.

How General Jerry Brown Won the Sun Tzu Primary

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

“I assume most of you have read ‘The Art of War,’” Attorney General Jerry Brown said to the California Young Democrats last weekend. “The good general,” he said, paraphrasing Sun Tzu, “wins the war by not fighting. You defeat your adversary’s strategy. I’m going to do that.”

Which sent us running to the bookshelf to grab our own Thomas Cleary translation of the 2,000 year old text of the great warrior philosopher, whose writings were mandatory reading among insiders in the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign.

We’re not sure when Jerry took up Sun Tzu. We thought he was one of  Tom Paine’s  Winter Soldiers, or an acolyte of C.K. Chesterton or something. Whatever, there’s much in “The Art of War” that helps illuminate Brown’s dealings — more of which we’ll see today when he formally announces his candidacy.

If, as Mao Zedong — another student of Sun Tzu – concluded, “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” then we need to ratchet back a notch or two to substitute political arts for military arts, and read Sun Tzu as a guide to the modern-day partisan battlefield:

A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent. Though effective, appear to be ineffective . . . Deception is for the purpose of seeking victory over an enemy; to command a group requires truthfulness.

Brown has followed this advice in spades, which led the California Republican Party to spend countless hours drawing attention to Brown by constantly sending out emails wondering when he’ll enter the fray.

Whether Brown was formally a candidate or not makes a difference only in the most superficial sense, however. And while a few Democratic insiders have fretted over Brown’s late engagement in the campaign, why in the world the GOP thought  it could affect the race by wondering “Where’s Jerry?” is beyond comprehension. Brown has followed Sun Tzu’s advice that:

…those who win every battle are not really skillful – those who render others’ armies helpless without fighting are the best of all.

Also:

When you induce others to construct a formation while you yourself are formless, then you are concentrated while the opponent is divided.

And, after all, what could be more formless than Brown’s non-campaign to date, in which he has husbanded resources and waited for the right moment to leap because, as Sun Tzu always liked to say:

If you know the place and time of battle, you can join the fight from a thousand miles away. If you do not know the place and time of battle, then your left flank cannot save your right, your right cannot save your left, your vanguard cannot save your rearguard and your rearguard cannot save your vanguard.

Whether Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner – with their many millions of dollars – is Brown’s opponent, he will be outspent in the general election. Even if labor, environmental, ethnic, gay and other liberal Democratic constituencies pool their money independently from the Brown campaign, it’s unlikely as much will be spent on Brown’s behalf as either of the potential GOP rivals can spend individually.

Which means Brown must fight a guerrilla war, feeding off the masses, merging with the people, striking swiftly and withdrawing, refusing to stand his puny, small-arms militia against the clanking, armored divisions of eMeg and the Commish.

So we won’t be surprised if Crusty the General Brown soon starts quoting from another military expert and tome: Lin Biao’s “Long Live the Victory of  People’s War!”

Even lamer than we thought: More details have emerged on our report on how the big-bucks corporations of the Bay Area Council bailed on financing its own signature reform initiative for a constitutional convention.

Our sources say that council corporate members had pledged, both at the group’s annual dinner and at two board meetings, to ante up $2 million to seed the campaign. But BAC CEO Jim Wunderman, and John Grubb, a senior vice president who resigned in order to manage the campaign on behalf of an arms-length group called Repair California, were blindsided when actual contributions from council members amounted to less than $300K.

Worse yet, two-thirds of that money came from one guy – Lenny Mendonca, managing director of the S.F. consulting firm McKensie & Co., while AT&T, BofA, PG&E, et. al, sat on their hands. Pathetic.

This far and no farther: After we noted in our deconstruction of Ken McLaughlin’s good interview with eMeg that she’s all over the lot on social issues, a sharp-eyed Calbuzzer alerted us to another contradiction in her stance on immigration:

On illegal immigration, Whitman said she disagreed with her campaign chairman, former Gov. Pete Wilson, over Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative that was ruled unconstitutional.

She said it was wrong to write an initiative aimed “mostly at children” by denying them health services and an education. “The children did not come here on their own,” she said.

But she said the state has to draw the line when it comes to many other services. For example, she doesn’t believe illegal immigrants should — as is currently the law — be entitled to in-state tuition at California’s public colleges and universities.

In other words, the government should pay the K-12 school costs to educate children of undocumented immigrants – but then draw the line at affording them in-state tuition rates for attending UC and CSUs.

The policy implications for this are curious to say the least: once California has borne the full cost of primary schooling for these students, what is the self-interest for the state suddenly to impose a ceiling on the extent of their educational achievement? We’d hate to think eMeg figures that limiting the children of immigrants to a high school diploma will help drive down the costs of good help in Atherton and Woodside.

Hi, this is Osama and I’m a first time caller: Seeking to stop the bleeding from a self-inflicted wound, wannabe GOP Senator Tom Campbell challenged rivals Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore to a radio debate on foreign policy and, miracle of miracles, the whole thing came together swiftly and is actually going to happen.

Campbell has found himself in the free fire zone for his past links to jihadist professor Sami Al-Arian, which raised the broader question of the depth of his commitment to Israel’s security. With his debate play, Dudley Do Right clearly is trying to ju-jitsu the issue in hopes of stomping Hurricane Carly and Red Meat Chuck with his superior knowledge of national security issues.

Kudos to Calbuzz blogroller and Sacto radio yakker Eric Hogue for putting the whole thing together in record time. The debate is set to air Friday, March 5 from 12 to 1 pm on the Eric Hogue Show on KTKZ 1380 and scheduled to be real time webcast.

California Reform Movement 2010: R.I.P.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Calbuzz is way overdue for a rant about the rich irony of the once-promising reform campaign to convene a state constitutional convention ignobly sinking because of…a lack of money.

Really?

The last time we checked, the membership of the Bay Area Council, the corporate coalition whose staff leadership got the ConCon effort started in the first place, included: Amgen, AT&T, BofA, Blue Shield, Chevron, Comcast, Del Monte, Franklin Templeton Investments, Genentech, Goldman-Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Levi-Strauss, Oracle, Pacific Gas & Electric, Shell Oil, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Wells Fargo, along with more than 200 other of the most successful companies with operations or outposts in the Bay Area.

And so: The effort to qualify for the ballot the group’s signature issue foundered because it couldn’t raise more than a measly $3 million for the campaign? Come on. These guys make Gordon Gekko look like Mother Teresa.

The plain fact is that if the high-end companies that populate the council wanted the convention to go, it would have gone. Instead they slammed shut their wallets, the clearest evidence there could be that they don’t want major reform, because they already know how to navigate the twisted, dysfunctional, Byzantine, gridlocked system just the way it is; unlike average citizens, they can penetrate it with mega-bucks campaign contributions and initiative campaigns.

Exhibit A: PG&E. The Pacific Greed and Extortion Co. will spend up to $35 million on its special interest Prop. 16 on the June ballot. The measure would block cities and counties from going into the public power business without a two-thirds local vote. As Chronicler David Baker reported :

So far, PG&E has supplied all of the proposition campaign’s funding, totaling $6.5 million. On Friday, PG&E took the unusual step of telling its investors that funding for the campaign would affect the company’s 2010 profits, lowering them by 6 to 9 cents per share. PG&E Corp. provided the information while reporting its 2009 profit ($1.22 billion, down from $1.34 billion in 2008) and giving its forecast for 2010.

PG&E describes the ballot initiative as a matter of fairness.

Fairness, indeed.

Our sources inside the Bay Area Council and its “Repair California” political wing note that member companies are also holding back their cash in preparation, as one put it, “for a nuclear arms race in November.”

They’re worried about at least two measures to split the property tax roll to allow higher taxes on business properties, an oil extraction tax, limitations on insurance rates, repeal of Proposition 13′s two-thirds requirement for local tax increases and the potential to overturn AB 32′s climate change provisions. And that’s just for starters.

California Backward: So pathetic are current prospects that Repair California is seriously considering throwing in with the California Forward folks and creating some kind of alliance or united front for reform, even if they have to drop their proposal to actually call a constitutional convention and just push the measure that would authorize voters to call a convention.

California Forward, that other paragon of reform circa 2009, is meanwhile dying a somewhat slower death. The incrementalist sponsors of this once-ballyhooed goo-goo group  are also having trouble, um, raising money – to campaign for two proposed initiatives.

Excuse us if the Calbuzz Paranoid Caucus entertains the notion that what you like to call your  Corporate Interests lost interest in this sucker the minute we blew the whistle on Cal Forward’s backroom attempt to dump the Sinclair Paint exemption, which would allow a majority of the Legislature to raise revenue by imposing mitigation fees on business.

Much of what’s left in one of the Cal Forward measures is spinach-and-broccoli good government stuff like performance-based budgeting, while the other tracks a similar initiative sponsored by the League of California Cities. The one element well worth saving in the Cal Forward soup is authorizing communities to raise the local tax by 1 cent with a majority of the people — which is NOT in the League’s “Keep Your Mitts Off Our Budgets” measure.

Some of the Cal Forward folks — most of whom have been totally feckless at raising money — think they can still get a) a billionaire angel to be named later to fund their ballot measures or b) a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to put something like their measure on the November ballot that would allow approval of a state budget by a majority vote, instead of the two-thirds required now. FFC. Good luck with that, guys.

Meanwhile, the bottom line on the collapse of the goo-goos was articulated nicely by the L.A. Times edit page:

This election year will bring many promises about bold leadership and new ideas, but there comes a point in most democratic societies at which the machinery gums up and some of the most cherished hallmarks of liberty — campaigning, voting, serving in office — descend into mere ritual. That’s when it’s time to rebuild the machinery.

Or not.

Mr. Speaker John Perez: All Cattle, No Hat

Monday, January 4th, 2010

perezbrownAs the Legislature returns this week, John Perez is poised to become the new Speaker of the Assembly, assuming the office with  ambitious reform notions –- and few of the institutional political tools needed to achieve them.

If Willie Brown was the Assembly’s Ayatollah, Perez is inheriting a speakership whose powers more closely resemble those invested in the  King of the Belgians. Despite the steep decline in influence of what once was the second most powerful office in California, Perez said in an interview that as Speaker he intends to tackle a host of reforms, from revamping the tax code (including a re-examination of Proposition 13) to seeking an escape from the straight jacket of term limits (and an out-of-control  initiative system).

“This is not a small task,” Perez told Calbuzz. “The challenges are monumental. If we fail to engage fully, the problems will only be pushed onto future generations.”

Brown wielded extraordinary power during his generation-long speakership, the last undiluted by the impact of term limits. More transactional than transformative, however, Brown’s actions most often focused on doing deals, refereeing economic battles between big special interests and reaping massive amounts of campaign cash on behalf of Democrats in the bargain. By contrast, Perez now seeks to accomplish big, substantive policy changes, at a time when the Speaker’s power to reward, punish and instill fear has been sapped since Brown left town in 1996.

In an interview a few days before New Year’s, Perez said that although the intractable budget fight will necessarily be his top priority, he intends to take on and “struggle with these big structural issues.”

gordian knotRefusing to take a position on major reform initiatives already being pushed by California Forward and the Bay Area Council, Perez suggested state lawmakers should pursue their own efforts to cut the Gordian knot of dead-end, deadlock politics that has dominated the Capitol in the post-Brown era: “The Legislature never intended to abdicate its responsibility” on such issues, he said.

“The most fundamental difference (between now and Brown’s tenure) is that there’s no ability for people to work with each other over time,” he added, acknowledging the difficulty of achieving political success amid the Capitol’s gridlock and every-member-for-him/herself environment. He insisted – despite the massive weight of evidence to the contrary – that he can “find Republicans who want to do what’s in the best interest of the state, not drive it off the cliff.”

A former union organizer from L.A., the 40-year old Perez as Speaker will become the highest-ranking, out-of-the-closet gay person in California history. As he completed his first Assembly term in December, he prevailed in a very public Democratic political brawl, overcoming a challenge from fellow Latino Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon, after Speaker Karen Bass abdicated amid constant rumors of an impending coup.

vasco

Mindful of lingering political sensitivities and the need to mend fences, Perez nervously objected when Calbuzz addressed him as “Mr. Speaker-elect” – “I’m not Speaker-elect yet” – a small but endearing display of modesty and humility that bodes well for his ability to massage the outsize egos of his constituency of 80 members. Perez strikes us as very intelligent if overly earnest, as he melds policy speak with New Age psychobabble that made us wonder if the disembodied aura of John Vasconcellos was lurking around the next corner of the Capitol.

“My job is to create a space where it’s safe for members to do their jobs and have an honest discussion of the impact” of policy decisions, he said. “The majority of members of both parties really care.”

Here’s a look at what he said on key issues:

Taxes: Perez bashed the Parsky Commission for coming up with a “political proposal” that would tilt California’s tax structure to favor rich people, instead of developing a “policy driven discussion” that presented a set of well-crafted options to put before elected decision makers. He said the Legislature should pursue its own rewrite of the tax code, a process in which “everything is on the table” – including Prop. 13.

Term limits: Perez pointed to term limits as the most fundamental factor underlying the dysfunction of Sacramento. With at least one initiative on term limits headed for the ballot, he said the current system encourages lawmakers to make policy choices without regard to their future impact and should be “eliminated any way we can do that.”

Reform proposals: Perez ducked questions about his views on both the constitutional convention initiative package backed by the Bay Area Council, and Cal Forward’s more incremental reform initiative. “Both are well-intentioned,” he said, “both need more public hearing and discussion.”

Working with Republicans: Perez called the temporary budget fix passed last June a “tremendous display of bipartisanship.” While favoring the repeal of the two-thirds budget vote requirement, he insisted “a large number” of GOP Assembly members are “not ideologues (and) really care about having an honest discussion of the impact” of budget cuts.

gay_marriage_210Gay marriage: The state’s first gay Speaker said that while public opinion is steadily if slowly shifting in favor of same sex marriage, an effort to pass a new initiative in 2010, just two years after the Prop. 8 ban on it, would be a serious tactical error, would likely lose and set back the cause for years.

Calbuzz Bottom Line: Like Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, Perez appears to be a very sharp guy. As with Steinberg, the key question will be whether he has the requisite ruthlessness and resourcefulness to make real change from a position of institutional weakness. In any case, we applaud him for trying and wish him all the luck in the world. He’ll need it.