Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Legislators, Initiatives and Representation

There was an article entitled, “Legislators, Initiatives, and Representation,” written by E. Gerber which we read in preparation for this class. This article looked at the differences between direct legislation and legislation developed through the legislative process. Specifically this article analyzed the effects of the how people respond to measures versus how the legislative body responds to measures.
This article used two different test cases to illustrate the differences between direct legislation and the legislative process. One case was the cigarette tax in Proposition 99, and the other was the transportation bond defeating in Proposition 74.
These two cases were good illustrations of what the difference is. The Proposition 74 case was stronger because the wording of the Proposition and the legislation was the same. Additionally, the vote in the Legislature and the vote by the people occurred relatively close together.
This article made me think of various other measures which have been, or might be, developed by direct legislation and through the legislative process. Two instances which immediately come to mind are the bond packages of 2006 and Proposition 200 (marriage is only between a man and a woman). In both cases legislation was passed – either through the legislative process (the bonds) or through direct legislation (Proposition 200). Then the opposite body was presented with the problem and tried to create a solution.
The solution in the bonds was that the voters agreed and passed them. This presents a situation where both the legislative process and the direct legislation presented the same outcome. This would, according to the article, mean that there were certain factors in alignment. In the legislative process, party leadership, committee membership, lobbyists, and campaign funding would have to align with the votes. However, I worked in the Legislature at this time and know what did and didn’t align. The reason that party leadership aligned was that Asm. Plesica, the minority leader before Villines, gave in to the Democrats. He had stated that the republicans wanted 36 hours to look over the bond proposal – they were given less than 1 hour. Then Plesica came out in support of the bonds, and provided cover for any Republicans who wanted to vote for them. Some did, and some did not. However, this provided enough cover that the bonds passed from the Legislature. Additionally, in the direct legislation process, there was little to no opposition to the bonds. The majority of the opposition was written in the press and based on the amount that these bonds would cost us in the long term. However, people are not interested in that. Therefore, the direct legislation passed without a lot of opposition as well. So it is possible that this series of events is not indicative of the differences or similarities between the legislative process and direct legislation because there were several deviations from the norm in the system.
Proposition 200 is an illustration of where the differences between the legislative process and direct legislation are reaffirmed. If the sole indicator of a legislators vote was the manner in which the majority of his/her district’s constituents voted – then there would not be the difference between Proposition 200 and the legislative process. However, the theory in this article states that there are other things at work in the legislative process. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the Proposition 200 argument.
Proposition 200 was a proposition which was passed to “defend marriage,” or state that marriage is between a man and a woman only. The majority of the citizens of California voted for this. Therefore, since the legislative process routinely delivers something different then what the majority of voters want, there must be other factors at play in the legislative process. The Legislature routinely votes for bills which would allow same-sex marriage. This is because there is strong party leadership among the Democrats – who are the majority needed to pass these bills – as well as a strong and vocal lobby of minority citizens who want this.
However, like the example of the cigarette tax, there are problems with this example. The direct legislation and the legislative process do not turn out bills worded the same – in fact they are opposites. There has also been a significant amount of time between the passage of the two items.
However, the fact that I can take 2 other situations and apply this theory to them, means that there is some truth to the theory. Although the theory may not take into account all factors, it does do a basic job of explaining the differences in outcome among the two manners of legislation.

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