Proposition 50 is a cynical play by the political class in the state Capitol to make the public think it is doing something about political corruption, when it actually does nothing of the sort.
If approved on June 7, this measure would only give more power to legislative leaders, while doing absolutely nothing about the culture of corruption that has become an accepted part of California politics.
Look back to 2014 to remember three state senators all under criminal indictment. Then-Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg refused to hold any hearings or a vote to consider expulsion of these members.
One of them, Rod Wright, was found guilty of eight felonies in January 2014 stemming from lying about living in the Senate district where he was running.
Eight months later a judge rejected an appeal from Wright and sentenced him to serve jail time, community service and probation. Confronted with that decision, Steinberg said he asked Wright to resign, but still refused to call a vote to expel him.
There is far more chance that giving the Legislature the power to take away a member’s salary will be used not to fight corruption, but to advance political agendas.
It is already difficult to find maverick legislators willing to call out corruption; it will be even rarer if it could mean your critics will trump up an accusation against you and cut off your pay.
Let’s be clear: You have a due process right and there is a burden on the state to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty of criminal acts.
But no one has a “right” to serve in public office. The public, however, does have the right to be represented by people who conduct themselves in an honest and morally upstanding way.
The politicians in Sacramento do not want to be put in a position of holding hearings and possibly impeaching a colleague who has clearly crossed the line, because that would further the notion that there should be high standards governing the conduct of state legislators – not everyone deciding for themselves what is right and wrong. There is a palpable sense that politicians are above the law.
I recently had a conversation with a state Assembly member who still believes that Wright got a “raw deal” and should never have been convicted. I pointed out that Wright had his day in court and a jury found him guilty.
The response was stunning: “The people on some random jury have no idea what they are doing.”
This Assembly member is just one of the politicians in Sacramento asking you to vote yes on Proposition 50.
Jon Fleischman is publisher of the FlashReport and president of California Term Limits and an author of the ballot argument against Proposition 50. He can be contacted at Jon@flashreport.org.