Just this weekend, California State Senator “One-Bill” Gil Cedillo reached his own personal legislative Promised Land with the passage of AB 2895 — the bill that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
If the topic sounds familiar, it should. About a year ago, former Governor Gray Davis helped seal his own electoral doom by signing a similar bill that the legislature itself repealed last spring, shaken by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s election and the enormous public opposition it generated. Now, the Democrats are at it again. Yes, the Democrats — not a single Republican voted to offer California driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
There are numerous reasons to oppose AB 2895, which Governor Schwarzenegger will veto. National security is an important one, as is preserving the sanctity of the ballot box; under the bill, employees at the Department of Motor Vehicles would in practice be granted the discretion to decide which license applicants could register to vote under Motor Voter legislation. Given California’s scandalously lax electoral procedures — one need not even bring identification to the polling place — a predictable result would be an influx of illegal immigrants voting in California’s state and federal elections.
But setting aside the bad policy, what’s most striking about AB 2895 is the legislative arrogance it embodies. Legislators used a parliamentary maneuver to rush it to passage at the last minute, without any of the usual committee hearings that accompany pending laws. That’s because Gil Cedillo, the bill’s godfather, recognizes that his pet cause is deeply unpopular with the vast majority of Californians. But he — and a substantial chunk of the Democrats in the legislature — simply don’t care. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted that Cedillo “protected” Democrats in “contested races,” allowing them to take a pass on voting for the measure, and instead relied on those from “safe districts.”
The real scandal is that there are enough “safe” districts to constitute a majority. Their existence has served to imbue Sacramento Democrats with an unbearable sense of entitlement, coupled with complete unaccountability. For them, serving in the California legislature has become little more than an opportunity to promote pet causes, all on the public dime. This session, the legislature actually passed a bill to regulate the feeding of ducks in the production of foie gras — when there’s only one duck farm in the state! And the bill won’t even go into effect for seven years.
Other legislative proposals included a measure to ban “farm-raised” salmon, along with bills that would amend the building code to include feng shui principles, prohibit smoking in private cars, and even classify wiping rags as a toxic substance. There was also a proposed constitutional amendment to lower the voting age to fourteen. And who can forget some of the greatest hits of the last legislative session? They included a proposal to impose a $150,000 fine against business owners, including Bible bookstores and the Boy Scouts, who decline to hire cross-dressers and transsexuals.
These legislators in Sacramento can hardly be considered to be working on “the people’s business.” Even so, whatever they’re doing, they’re being well-paid for it. Each legislator collects $100,000 per year — in a state where average annual wages were $41,419 in 2002 (the last year for which figures were available), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And notwithstanding the state’s oft-bemoaned fiscal crisis, the Senate and Assembly’s combined budget totaled a healthy $205 million this year, an increase of $7.5 million over last year.
But the increase in their own budget is nothing compared to the growth in government that they have imposed on Californians. Over the past five years, the costs of salaries and benefits for state workers, including pensions, soared 41% from $13.3 billion to $18.7 billion, even as the number of full time employees swelled 10.5% to 212,563.
But these upward-spiraling costs never slow down the Democrats. With complete indifference toward those who subsidize the government, their answer to every fiscal problem has been to impose tax increases.
Many legislators reacted with shock when Ted Costa, one of the fathers of the recall, started discussing a referendum to return California’s legislature to part time status. But such a referendum — along with a new process for creating fewer “safe” districts — may be just what the Democratic majority needs to remind its members that they are actually the employees of the California citizen taxpayers who support them, and their pet projects, in such grand and generous style.