A Deliberative Poll for CA's Future :: Summer 2011

Californians Ask the Experts

Judy Woodruff of PBS chaired a panel of six political and government experts this morning who answered questions from Californians meeting and deliberating on what changes might move California forward. This morning’s topics focused on legislative and initiative reform
The 400 Californians deliberating in Torrance have discovered that each state legislator represents far more people than in other states—districts of 467,000 in the assembly and 934,000 in the senate—eight times higher than the national average.  They asked the experts how to make government more responsive, discussing perhaps a single house (unicameral) legislature with smaller districts.  They also learned some of the unintended consequences of term limits and discussed how to modify them.

People shared concern over how confusing California’s ballot initiatives are, responding favorably when one expert suggested gathering a group of 5th grade teachers to write them.  There was a spirited debate on whether there should be fewer ballot initiatives, or whether the present approach is fine.  It was noted that the present system—requiring all signatures in 150 days—favored professional, funded efforts over real citizen initiatives, proposing the use of digital signatures or a longer time frame as possible reforms.

A lot of Californians are fed up with their state government and a big concern is how to engage their energy and ideas.  Many think pushing decisions down to a more local level is part of the answer, a topic to be considered further this afternoon.

David Davenport is the Co-Chairman of What's Next California and a member of the California Forward Leadership Council.