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Meet the Worst Legislator in California

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Opinion: Meet CA's Worst Legislator

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Voters fill out ballots at a polling place in a fire station June 8, 2010.

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Californians hate their legislature. But which California legislator is the worst?

By objective standards, the identity of the worst legislator is no contest.

The worst legislator is so lazy that he works for only two days every other year. Sometimes he doesn't even bother to show up to make laws even that often. While other state legislators work full-time at lawmaking, the worst legislator holds other jobs. Indeed, the worst legislator in California doesn't develop or introduce his own legislation; he farms out that work to interest groups and to millionaires and billionaires.

The worst legislator is woefully uninformed about the basics of how California works. The worst legislator doesn't even know that the biggest spending item in a California budget is schools, and that the biggest source of tax revenues for state government is from income. And the worst legislator can't be bothered to remember what he did previously. When questioned in 2011, the worst legislator had forgotten about a tax increase that had been passed all the way back in 2009, a tax increase that was then up for renewal and at the center of public debate.

Despite this lack of diligence and knowledge, the worst legislator has a very high opinion of himself. So high that he believes he is by far best equipped to make the big decisions in California -- about spending, about taxes about constitutional design. The worst legislator also strongly insists that his decisions be final -- and not open to amendment or fixing by other legislators. But when things go wrong as a result of decisions made by the worst legislator, the worst legislator doesn't blame himself. He blames other legislators.

So who is that worst legislator?

It's you -- and your fellow members of the California electorate.

Californians, when they vote, behave as legislators, making laws and constitutional amendments via ballot initiatives and other measures.

They know little of how California works, vote only periodically, and don't pay much attention to state affairs -- but polls show they still think they know best.

If the California electorate were a legislator, you'd fire him. But you can't.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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