Michael Reagan Leads Effort to Make California's Legislature Part-Time

Tuesday, 17 Apr 2012 10:13 PM

By Paul Scicchitano and Kathleen Walter

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Michael Reagan, the son of the late president Ronald Reagan, tells Newsmax.TV that his effort to replace California’s full-time legislature with part-time lawmakers would rectify one of the few “disappointments” his father took from the governorship.

Reagan chairs the Citizen Legislature Initiative, which has already collected 400,000 signatures — with another month to reach a total of 807,615 signatures to get the measure on the November ballot throughout the Golden State.

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He acknowledged in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that the beloved president had confided his disappointment in supporting California’s initial move in 1967 from a part-time, to a full-time legislature.

“It has been a disaster,” Reagan declared, noting that his father, who served as governor of California from 1967 to 1975, would be supportive of his efforts. “I remember my father telling me there was only a few things that he was disappointed with as governor.”

As such, Michael Reagan believes it’s only fitting that he help change the legislature back. “I think it’s great that his son is saying ‘wait a minute: I’m going to chair the effort to take this back to a part-time legislature, and try and get this state back in some fiscal sanity,’” Reagan explained.

The California legislature is the highest paid in the country, with members receiving base salaries of $96,000 per year plus additional non-taxable income, according to Reagan, who is also a Newsmax contributor. “They can make up to $50,000 a year in per diem, which means it’s non-taxable,” he said. “So they can make $146,000 a year — $50,000 of which is non-taxable. Don’t you wish you had that deal?”

Even more troubling is the “out of control” legislative burden full-time legislators generate for the state, which is losing some five businesses each week. “Last year I think they passed something like 3,000 bills — signed over 800 bills into law,” observed Reagan. “You can’t wake up in California without breaking a law, and these state legislatures are bankrupting this state.”

Under the proposed change, legislators would earn $18,000 per year, which amounts to $1,500 per month — a significant savings for Californians from the nearly $8,000 per month legislators now earn. The measure would also limit per diem and travel expenses.

In addition, legislators would be banned from receiving a political/government appointment or lobbying for five years after leaving office.

To date, 41 states already operate part-time legislatures, including Texas, which was touted by former presidential hopeful Rick Perry as a possible model for Congress had he gone on to win the White House.

“As I look at the states that are taking California jobs — like Texas, and Florida and other states, they’re part-time legislatures,” said Reagan.

“They only work a few months every other year, but yet these states are growing. They’re not only growing in population. They’re growing in businesses and everything else.”

He added that the concept of a full-time legislature initially worked for California back in the 1960s. “It was great when you had a governor who really knew what he was doing, but since then it’s just completely out of control,” said Reagan. “The governor in the state of California no longer has any control at all. It doesn’t matter if you’re [Arnold] Schwarzenegger. It doesn’t matter if you’re [Jerry] Brown. It doesn’t matter because the state legislature has all of the power.”

A part-time legislature would meet no more than 90 days in Sacramento between the months of January to June — with exceptions allowed for emergencies called by the governor. The proposal also calls for a two-year budget, with the first of the two years in each legislative session being set aside strictly for adopting a new budget.

“You’re going to have fewer bills that are going to be passed, fewer laws that are going to be passed,” said Reagan, who believes that state politics should not be a career. “It’s about time that we get back to a situation where people who are serving us, do it as a part of who they are. It’s not a career to become a politician. Your job should be a career. Being a politician — you should be a citizen giving up your time and not looking at it as a way to get wealthy, as so many do.”

The full-time legislature has simply not gotten the job done as the state now struggles to compete in areas it once dominated such as education, roads, infrastructure, and business climate.

“This state has gone completely in reverse in the last 10 to 20 years,” Reagan declared. “That’s why you see people leaving the state, businesses leaving the state. Right now if you want to visit California you don’t have to come here. Stay in Florida or visit Texas, and you’ll meet Californians.”

He said the initiative has been an easy sell to California residents, who are all too familiar with the state’s high unemployment and unfriendly business climate.

“Democrats, independents, Republicans — anybody in the state that we go up and talk to is signing this petition,” he said, adding that the acquisition cost of each signature is about 75 cents as compared to $3-5 for other initiatives. “Everybody comes up to you is signing it. They want this state to change.”

While his initiative would reduce the tax burden for California residents, Reagan said that Gov. Brown is hoping to win support for a proposal that would actually increase taxes at a time when the state has nearly two million people out of work.

“California is in trouble. If the governor of the state is able to get his ballot measure on the ballot in November and people in the state vote to raise our taxes, this state will become worse,” Reagan insisted. “It will not become better because more people will in fact leave this state and go elsewhere. “

For more information on the Citizen Legislature Initiative, or to contribute, visit www.citizenlegislaturenow.com.


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