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California Assembly Speaker Promises A Year Of Reform

Audio

Aired 3/2/10

The California Assembly has a new speaker... and he vows this will be the year of reform. We're joined by non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. He tells us about the new speaker... and gives us the latest on the governor's race.

The California Assembly has a new speaker and he vows this will be the year of reform. We're joined by non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Leo, Los Angeles Democrat John Pérez, the cousin to the mayor of Los Angeles, took the reins of assembly speaker yesterday. Reform -- do you think he'll be effective with that initiative?

LEO MCELROY: You know, somebody once said to me, talking about the prisons, that prisons as a place for reform don't really work because you have to have the people being reformed want reform. I think that's the same situation that John Pérez faces with the legislature. He can't reform people who like the system the way it is, and most of them fight bitterly to avoid changes. They don't like the changes that were forced on them by say Abel Maldonado, or the redistricting, or the open primary, and they certainly don't want a whole lot of changes otherwise. The one thing that he may be able to pull off is the ending of the Big Five conferences on budget, where the leaders get together and everybody else waits on the other side of the door and says 'What happened? What happened? What happened?' He pledges to do it in the open, and that may happen. But the one hint of a change that came, and it came rather casually, was that John Pérez dropped a hint that Abel Maldonado's confirmation might be back on a fast track, and that it might be much more possible now that he is confirmed as lieutenant governor, than it was the last time around when the vote was 37-35 on confirmation and he failed. So, maybe he was dropping a hint, and hints are not something casually dropped in the capital.

PAMELA DAVIS: Now Jerry Brown is expected to declare his candidacy for California governor this morning. He's the only Democratic candidate so far, how does this change the dynamics of the gubernatorial race.

MCELROY: Well, it ranks as probably the biggest non-surprise of the week. Everybody has known for a long time that Jerry was running and everybody's been pretty sure that Jerry was going to be the only one in the race. There were rumors for a while, that somebody said Jane Harmon, who has pretty good independent money, might jump into the race and make a contest of it, but in the end it's Jerry all by himself, and so he's had the luxury of sitting there, not having to campaign, being able to be faintly amused at all the stuff that's going on. And now he needs to officially announce he's a candidate, because otherwise he misses the deadline and isn't. It probably doesn't change anything. What his realization is, is that he has the luxury of sitting on the sidelines and watching the battle for the Republican nomination between Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner battle it out, and he can sit there and do droll remarks from the sidelines for a while.

DAVIS: Leo, real quick, during budget negotiations we've been hearing a lot about taxes. When is a tax not a tax?

MCELROY: Well, if you talk to the governor you get one answer, and if you talk to the legislature you get another. The governor, for instance, says that his proposed fee, he calls it, on all home insurance policies, to provide funds for emergency services, is a fee, not a tax. The state legislative council says no, that's a tax. That's a tax on everybody who has a home, whether they get services or not, so it counts as a tax, and it takes a two-thirds vote to pass it. The governor disagrees. The legislature on the other hand says that their plan to change gasoline taxes and to cut some tax benefits for business is not a tax, it's a fee, and again, there's considerable disagreement. So it would be an arcane argument except for the fact that whether it's a fee or a tax makes a difference because it takes a two-thirds vote, and a two-thirds vote is not going to happen in this legislature.

DAVIS: And that is non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

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