The University of California San Diego political scientist Thad Kousser has a smart idea for the Democratic majority in California's legislature: Stop using the so-called suspense file for bills that might have majority support.
What's the suspense file? It's a place legislative leaders can put on hold bills that have majority support -- but that they don't like and want to strangle out of public view. Kousser explains in a Los Angeles Times op-ed:
"The ostensible purpose of the file is to take all expensive bills that pass out of policy committees in the state Senate and Assembly, and hold them so that they can be judged together after an assessment of the state's fiscal condition. The state can then live within its means. The theory is fine.
"The problem is that in practice, the only bills that get off the suspense file are the ones handpicked by party leaders. The night before the appropriations committees in each house meet to act on the suspense file, party leaders get together to decide which bills get off the file and which die a quiet and hidden death. The bills they kill without a public vote are often the ones that would move policy toward the center, where moderate Democrats and Republicans would ally to form a centrist majority backing the bill. If any members of the committee dare buck the leaders' demands, they can be unceremoniously pulled off the committee."
Kousser argues that if legislative leaders believe in majority rule (as they did in supporting the just-passed Prop 25), they should reform the suspense file so each bill put there gets a hearing and a public vote.