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Part-time Legislature? Campaign finds local support

Bakersfield assemblywoman wants to cut pay and have lawmakers meet 3 months a year
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A Bakersfield assemblywoman’s drive to turn state legislators into part-timers is resonating in some Placer County political circles. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, is advocating a ballot initiative to make a seat in California Legislature part-time rather than full-time, with a steep dock in pay. “I just want to return the state to the citizens of California,” Grove told the Journal. Grove’s initiative would drop the legislative year to three months from nine. And legislator pay would plummet to $18,000 annually from the current $95,000. Established state lawmakers Ted Gaines and Beth Gaines and some potential challengers in Placer County are embracing the part-time push. Grove’s initial efforts involve raising funds and handing out petitions in a grass-roots effort she likens to the recall drive that removed Gov. Gray Davis from office. “This really is a people’s initiative that has a goal of returning the state to a better economic future, like the time before economic interests took over,” Grove said. State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, said he’d welcome the change. “I support a part-time Legislature,” Ted Gaines said. “It makes a lot of sense that individuals have a regular day job — it brings a sense of reality to legislation.” Ted Gaines, owner of a Roseville insurance business, said he hasn’t studied the Grove proposal and would want to see how it would have an impact on the Capitol power structure. “I have concerns that bureaucracies would gain power when the Legislature is out of session,” Ted Gaines said. “We have to guard against creating a void and giving bureaucracies more power.” Ted Gaines and Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Roseville, said they would be in favor in a cut in pay. The two make up one of the few husband-wife tandems to have served in the state Legislature at the same time. Beth Gaines said that she works on a regular basis in the family business and a part-time Legislature would result in more elected politicians returning to their communities to see what she sees – how laws are affecting the private sector. Beth Gaines said the “citizen legislator” idea is getting strong support from people she’s talked to in her district. But Democrats across the aisle have voiced their opposition, she added. Roseville’s Linda Park, who has announced she is running against Gaines for the District 6 Assembly seat, said she’s “100 percent supportive of Shannon Grove’s initiative.” “As a citizen legislator I would not be part of a family dynasty like my opponent,” Park said. “They need a pay reduction and it would do wonders for legislators who make a living out of working in the Legislature.” Park said that whether the initiative gets on the ballot in November – or is approved or not – if she is elected, she would voluntarily take a cut in pay while pushing for a reduction in the number of days the Legislature would be in session. She pointed to Texas, where legislators meet for four months over two years. Auburn’s Michael Babich, a Republican considering running for the District 1 Assembly seat, said he supports the concept but not the initiative Grove has in mind. Babich said he likes the part-time Legislature model Nevada has. It meets full-time one year and then can take the next year off unless special sessions are called by the governor, he said. Babich said that shifting what Sacramento now has so dramatically would likely result in negative repercussions. The state Legislature has been full-time since 1966. “To pull the rug out so suddenly now is I’m not sure the way to go,” Babich said. “It’s like an arrow going into a patient. The cure is not yanking it out – you have to work it through.”