Who Cares About Legislative Gifts?


If only the state could tax crocodile tears, we could balance the budget.

The latest cries of outrage came from newspapers and others upset that the California legislature declined to ban gifts to lawmakers from companies who want things from them.

Yes, this looked bad -- lawmakers declare they still want to receive gifts -- but the impact is minor.

Gifts to California legislators don't do all that much for the gift-givers because there's very little of great consequences that California legislators can do.

Lawmakers can use their power to bottle things up, but there's very little they can do affirmatively for gift givers.

When it comes to spending money and taxation, California lawmakers are limited by a wide array of voter-approved constitutional amendments and initiatives.

What's important is not how many gifts lawmakers receive. It's how little ability to govern they have.

If fiscal and other rules were stripped away, legislators could make big decisions -- and be held accountable for the consequences. In that sort of system, a ban on gifts would have meaning -- because legislators would have real power.

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