The State Supreme Court's recent decision upholding the state senate redistricting plan by the Independent Citizens Commission brought a predictable Republican response: California is doomed to one-party government in the state legislature.
The Republicans may be right, but if they are, it is largely the result of their own doing almost 45 years ago.
It goes back to Proposition 13. Yes, THAT Proposition 13--enacted by the voters with enthusiastic Republican support in 1978.
Most everyone focuses on the 57 percent slash in property tax which brought about immediate relief to homeowners and businesses alike and placed local governments in a straightjacket.
But an even more significant portion of the proposition established that henceforth any tax increases enacted by the legislature would require an absolute two-thirds vote in each house--that's 27 of the seats in senate and 54 seats in the assembly. Simply put in political terms, under these rules one party has to have enough seats to completely dominate the other.
The super-majority vote ties California with two other states as the highest requirement in the nation. It also allows the minor party to prevent tax legislation with relatively few numbers--one-third plus one--as we have
seen over the past years. Even though large majorities of Democrats have populated both houses, their numbers have fallen just short of the two-thirds mark.
That basis for gridlock is about to change.
Fast forward to the January ruling and you can see why Republicans are worried.
With Democrats overwhelmingly outnumbering Republicans in California, under the new district boundaries Democrats are within striking distance of achieving that magic (or fearful) Democratic super-majority, thereby opening the floodgates to all kinds of tax revenue increases.
Those huge Democratic numbers are likely to propel the state toward one-party government and render the Republicans largely irrelevant.
That's good news for the Democrats in the short run, but potentially harmful to California in the long run, given what's likely to be an impotent Republican opposition.
Still, Republicans must own responsibility for their demise. Without Proposition 13, there wouldn't be the need for massive one-party dominance and the two-parties could have co-existed in a more productive and less obstructionist environment.
Until the Proposition 13 two-thirds rule changes, California will operate under one of two conditions: eithergridlock or overwhelming one-party rule.
Talk about choosing the lesser of two evils!
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