As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Holding Our Elected Officials Accountable

California's system of government is designed to produce bad outcomes, no question about it. But that does not let Democratic lawmakers off the hook for their actions. The process denies the ability to budget in a sane manner, but nobody put a gun to their head and forced them to sign on to a budget that rips the social safety net to shreds. If progressive Democrats in the legislature were willing to say no a little more, they might gain a measure of respectability and have at least some of their demands met.

The problem is that it's very difficult to get a bead on who votes for and against a budget, given the state's process. There were 26 different budget trailer bills, and lawmakers had the opportunity to pick and choose where to take stands. Progressive activists need that information of who voted on what in order to make choices about their representatives. It's not the sum total of the equation - leadership can cut deals with individual lawmakers to vote no on trailer bills where their vote is not needed for passage and yes on others, and there's all manner of horse-trading that goes on. But in the end, all we have are the votes. And so we can judge our elected officials based on what votes they made.

Marty Omoto has helpfully strung together all the votes on the main budget bill and key trailer bills, and he will follow this up in subsequent posts. Have a look. Hone in on your representative. Did they vote in your interests? Did they take any notable stands? Or did they go along with the leadership? If so, is there any need for them to participate in the Legislature, or couldn't a lever pulled by the leadership work just as well?

I'm going to look at my two lawmakers, below. By the way, I also have a list of all Assembly votes on all budget trailer bills, ping me if you want a copy.

For the time being, I live in the 41st Assembly District and the 23rd Senate District. My lawmakers are Julia Brownley and Fran Pavley. How'd they vote?

Brownley voted yes on every single budget bill except for four based on my records: AB X4 7, AB X4 8, AB X4 19 and AB X4 23. AB 7 (for short) privatized the social services enrollment process. AB 8 instituted so-called "anti-fraud" provisions to CalWorks to reduce or limit eligibility, and eliminated cost of living adjustments to the welfare program. AB 19 dealt with in-home support services (IHSS) in a similar way as CalWorks, adding fingerprinting and background checks and other anti-fraud measures. AB23 was the Tranquillon Ridge offshore drilling deal.

So basically, Brownley objected to the policy changes made to human services programs but voted with the leadership on pretty much all the program cuts.

As for Pavley, she voted against AB 7 (privatizing social services enrollment), AB 8 (anti-fraud changes to CalWorks), AB X4 9 (cuts on spending to developmental services like Early Start), AB 19 (the aforementioned IHSS bill) and AB23 (Tranquillon Ridge). She also voted against AB27, the use of redevelopment funds by the state. Everything else was a yes.

I think if you go through the votes, with rare exceptions you will see this as the norm for Democratic legislators - picking a few issues, usually on issues where their votes were not needed, to draw a line in the sand, but being generally not too troublesome and following leadership.

In general I think Julia and Fran are solid legislators, but I think it's reasonable to ask whether that's good enough.

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