(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)
A recent edition of my local newspaper, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, featured a front page story titled, “How many laws did IE’s (Inland Empire’s) state officials get passed?” It mentions that California Governor Brown had over 800 bills land on his desk, then goes on to detail how many bills and resolutions each of our local representatives managed to get enacted.
“How many bills did you pass?” is the wrong question.
Implicit in the tone of this article is that passing a lot of laws is a good thing and a mark of success for our representatives. I disagree. California has too many laws. Law books that dwarf the bible in length catalog the catacomb of confusing and contradictory legislation that burdens our state.
But this attitude and result is to be expected with a full-time legislature and the barnacle-like accretion of lobbyists that surround it. To escape from this legislative leviathan, California should adopt sunset clauses and the Texas model of a part-time legislature.
Sunset clauses in every law would establish an expiration date for the law. At that point, legislators would have to look at it again. (I’m optimistically assuming they looked at it before approving it the first time.) As conditions change, the law may no longer be needed, or it may need to be modified. Nothing is as constant as change, except maybe new laws.
In Texas the legislature meets for a regular session of 140 days on odd numbered years, although the governor can call special sessions. Pay and per diem for legislators adds up to a whopping $28,200 per year for regular sessions. This arrangement does not create a rich political-class with an incentive to pass more and more laws.
One might argue that California is not Texas, and what works for those cowboys couldn’t possibly work in the sophisticated land of Silicon Valley and Hollywood. By all economic measures, what they are doing in the land of the Alamo works a lot better.
According to Forbes magazine, Texas ranks 45th among the states for tax burden, while California is 4th. Thank you, legislators.
The Texas economy is growing faster than California and its unemployment rate is half as high. That could be, among other things, because the industrial electricity rate in California is 88 percent higher than in Texas. Might that have to do with all the fuzzy-minded green laws regulating energy?
Even our beloved film industry is losing out. Director Robert Rodriguez told USA Today that Austin is becoming what Hollywood used to be. “Now Hollywood comes to us,” he said. Richard Linklater, and Mike Judge also call Austin home.
But California is all about technology and education. Why is it then that Texas eighth graders score higher than California kids in both reading and math?
When it comes to housing, the median price of a home in California is $452,000, compared to only $145,000 in Texas. If you want to rent, you can move into equivalent digs in San Francisco for $3458 per month or Houston for $867 per month.
Our California state legislature sure is doing a fine job for us, working all year long every year. You have to feel sorry for those poor Texans, with their part time, minimum-wage legislature. Right?
Let’s hope that around this time next year, I can pick up the Daily Bulletin and see an article praising the Inland Empire’s legislators for all the laws they managed to repeal. Fewer laws mean more freedom, and more freedom leads to economic prosperity.
Just ask a Texan.