Fri, Nov 9, 2012 -- 9:00 AM

A Supermajority for California Democrats

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The state Capitol in Sacramento.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The state Capitol in Sacramento.

For the first time in almost 80 years, one political party now controls two-thirds of both California legislative houses. This supermajority will allow Democrats to raise taxes, override vetoes by the governor and put constitutional reforms before voters. But as Governor Jerry Brown noted, "desires are endless." So which desires will be fulfilled? Will it be giving back dental care to 3 million poor Californians, or restoring slashed funding to state courts? And can a supermajority fix California's dysfunction?

Host: Scott Shafer


  • Cathy Campbell, a vice president of the California Federation of Teachers
  • Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California, a statewide citizen-based environmental advocacy organization
  • Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California
  • John Kabateck, California executive director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
  • Willie Brown, former mayor of San Francisco who served for over 30 years in the state Legislature

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Show Highlights

On What Republicans Can Do Now

The question for state Republicans is interesting. They now represent less than 30 percent, 29 percent, of the state's electorate. And if the elections results hold, we'll have less than one third in both houses, wich really leaves them with two options.

Number one, they can stand back and yell. They can say 'Oh, look at those Democrats overreaching. They can try to convince voters two years from now that Democrats over-interpreted their mandate.

The other potential opportunity for them is, and we'll see if they decide to take advantage of it or not, is to work with Gov. Brown on some issues where the governor may differ from the base of the Democratic party: reforming of the regulatory process, for example. [Or perhaps] continuing reform of state pensions. The governor has talked about changing the way public schools are financed. And he mentioned yesterday moving forward on water policy.

Should the Republicans pick their spots and decide to work with the governor, they can still play a small but important role.

On Jerry Brown's Challenge

Governor Brown has a two-front challenge: convincing Democrats to restrain themselves and convincing Republicans, to, at least to some degree, to come back to the table.

[Gov. Brown] is fiscally moderate. His challenge is going to be convincing those members who were elected with strong financial support from interests who have had their budgets cuts over the last [few] years to help him hold the line. It's a tough challenge but he's got the political capital after passing Proposition 30. He's got a good chance of pulling it off.

On Why Brown Might Succeed

With geographic diversity comes ideological diversity. And I think the governor is going to have at least some allies in the legislative caucuses in his efforts to hold the line.

On Why the Legislature Won't Simply Overrule Brown

There are Democrats and there are Democrats. And to parse that a little bit further, there are very, very progressive Democrats in the legislature and there are more centrist ones. And that's the price of having a majority, or certainly a two thirds majority, ideological diversity within a party. And in order to override the veto of a Democratic governor you would need every single Democratic legislative vote, including a lot of Democrats who are indebted to Gov. Brown for their presence in Sacramento. It's not impossible but I think Gov. Brown is a smart enough politician to make it a relatively infrequent occurrence.

-Dan Schnur

To read a transcript of Willie Brown's comments made during the show, click here.


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