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June 7, 2016 — California Primary Election
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— Suspension of LegislatorsSuspension of LegislatorsLegislatively Referred Constitutional Amendment

June 7, 2016California Primary Election

State of California
Proposition 50 — Suspension of Legislators Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendment - Majority Approval Required

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Election Results

Passed

5,468,515 votes yes (75.5%)

1,775,327 votes no (24.5%)

  • 100% of precincts reporting (22,356/22,356).

This measure amends the State Constitution to add new provisions regarding the suspension of legislators.

Information provided by The League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

The way it is now

In 2014, three California state Senators were accused of felonies and their fellow state Senators voted to suspend them. The state Constitution has rules for how to remove (expel)  state lawmakers for wrongdoing but no rules to suspend them for a limited period of time. The accused lawmakers were not allowed to vote on laws, but still received their salaries and benefits.

What if it passes?

Add rules to the state Constitution about how to suspend state lawmakers, not just how to expel them. Suspension would require a 2/3 vote of fellow lawmakers, and the suspended lawmaker’s salary and benefits could be taken away during the period of the suspension.

Budget effect

Suspension is not expected to happen very often, so in most years there would be no effect on the budget. If there is a suspension in the future, the state could save a small amount of money.

People FOR say

Accused lawmakers should not be expelled until proven guilty. But it does make sense to suspend them with the option of taking away their salary and benefits.

People AGAINST say

When lawmakers are suspended, they are  not able to do their  job for the people they represent.  Accused lawmakers should be expelled instead of suspended.

Information provided by The League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

The Question

Should the state Constitution be amended to authorize the Legislature to suspend its members, with or without salary and benefits?

The Situation

The state Legislature consists of two houses: the Senate and the Assembly. The state Constitution provides that each house of the Legislature may expel one of its members who is accused of wrongdoing by a 2/3 vote of that house’s membership. The Constitution does not provide for suspension; however, each house of the Legislature may, by majority vote, suspend one of its members. In 2014, three Senators were accused of felonies, and the Senate voted to suspend them. Under this suspension, they were not allowed to vote on bills or take other legislative actions, but continued to receive their salaries and benefits while suspended, because there was no mechanism to prevent this.

The Proposal

The Constitution would be amended to authorize the suspension of a member of a house of the Legislature, with or without salary and benefits, by a 2/3 vote of the members of that house. The reasons for the suspension and rules for when the suspension would end would have to be set forth. The rules would require that either the suspension end on a specific date, or that a vote be taken in the future to end it.

Fiscal effect

Because suspension of legislators is so rare, in most years Prop. 50 would have no effect on state or local finances. In the event of any future suspension, there could be minor savings to the state.

Supporters say

  • There should be a mechanism short of expulsion for suspending members without pay who have been accused of wrongdoing.
  • Prop. 50 sets a high bar to prevent lawmakers from unjustly punishing each other.

 

Opponents say

  • Expulsion is the correct punishment for members accused of wrongdoing. Suspending a member leaves his or her constituents without representation.
  • Under Prop. 50, members of the Legislature could vote to suspend a member who supports unpopular issues.

 

Summary

  • Authorizes each house of Legislature to suspend one of its Members by two-thirds vote, and to require Member to forfeit salary and benefits while suspended.
  • Prohibits suspended Member from exercising rights, privileges, duties, or powers of office, or using any legislative resources.
  • Provides suspension may end on specified date, or upon two-thirds vote of Member’s house.

 

Summary of Legislative Analyst’s Estimate of Net State And Local Government Fiscal Impact:

  • No effect on state spending in most years. Minor state savings in some years.
— California Attorney General

Background

The California Legislature. Each year the Legislature votes to approve or reject proposed laws and passes a state budget. Voters elect 120 members to the two houses of the Legislature: 40 Senators and 80 Assembly Members. An independent commission—not the Legislature—sets salaries and benefits for legislators. Currently, the state pays most legislators a salary of about $100,000 each year. Legislators also receive health, dental, and vision benefits. They do not receive state retirement benefits.

Disciplining Legislators. When legislators are accused of wrongdoing, there are several ways that they can be disciplined. For example, they can be prosecuted and sentenced by a court if they violate criminal laws, or voters can attempt to remove them from office through a recall process. In addition, each house of the Legislature traditionally has had the ability to discipline its own members. Except for expulsion (described below), a majority vote of the house is required to take disciplinary actions. These disciplinary actions include the following:

  • Expulsion. Expelling a legislator—ending his or her term of office—is the most severe disciplinary action available to the Assembly or Senate. The last time this happened was in 1905, when four Senators were found by the Senate to be taking bribes. After a legislator is expelled, he or she is no longer a Senator or Assembly Member. His or her state salary and benefits stop. Under the State Constitution, two-thirds of the Assembly or Senate must vote to expel one of its members. This is the only disciplinary action specifically mentioned in the State Constitution.
  • Suspension. Each house of the Legislature can also suspend one of its members. For example, in 2014 three Senators were accused of felonies and the Senate subsequently voted to suspend them. During the time they were suspended, the three Senators did not vote on bills or take other legislative actions. They remained in office, however, and kept receiving state salaries and benefits until they left the Senate. (Later in 2014, each of the three either resigned or left the Legislature at the scheduled end of their Senate terms.) This was the first time in history that California legislators had been suspended.
  • Other Disciplinary Actions. In addition to expulsion and suspension, each house of the Legislature can take other, less severe disciplinary actions. These include censure (publicly criticizing a legislator).
— Legislative Analyst's Office

Impartial analysis / Proposal

This measure amends the State Constitution to add new provisions regarding the suspension of legislators. The provisions address the following issues: 

  • Higher Vote Requirement to Suspend Legislators. Currently, the Assembly or Senate can suspend one of its members with a majority vote. This measure requires a two-thirds vote of the Assembly or Senate in order to suspend one of its members.
  • Allows Suspending Legislators Without Pay and Benefits. Currently, a suspended legislator keeps receiving a state salary and benefits. This measure allows the Assembly or Senate to stop a legislator’s pay and benefits during all or part of a suspension.
  • Other Requirements for Suspending Legislators. This measure also (1) prohibits a suspended legislator from voting on laws or taking other actions as a legislator during a suspension, (2) requires the house to describe the reasons for a suspension, and (3) sets rules for when a suspension would end (either on a specific date set by the Assembly or Senate or after two-thirds of the Assembly or Senate votes to end the suspension).
— Legislative Analyst's Office

Financial effect

Only in rare cases have California legislators been expelled or suspended. If such disciplinary penalties against legislators continue to be rare, this measure would have no effect on state or local finances in most years. In any future year when the Senate or Assembly suspended a legislator, this measure could lower the Legislature’s compensation costs, resulting in minor state savings.

— Legislative Analyst's Office

YES vote means

A YES vote on this measure means: The State Constitution would be amended to require a two-thirds vote of the Senate or Assembly in order to suspend a state legislator. The Senate or Assembly could eliminate that legislator’s salary and benefits during the suspension.

NO vote means

A NO vote on this measure means: The Senate or Assembly could still suspend a legislator with a majority vote. The suspended legislator, however, would continue to receive a state salary and benefits.

Arguments FOR

VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 50—ALLOW THE LEGISLATURE TO SUSPEND MEMBERS WITHOUT PAY

Proposition 50 would amend the state Constitution to give the California Legislature clear authority to suspend members of the Senate or the Assembly without pay.

The measure is a simple and straightforward way for lawmakers to hold their own colleagues accountable for breaching the public’s trust.

Currently, the California Constitution does not make it clear that the Legislature can suspend its members without pay. This issue came to light in 2014 when three state senators—all charged with criminal offenses—were suspended by a resolution of the Senate.

But those members continued to receive their salaries—more than $95,000 a year—because it was not clear that the Senate had the authority to suspend their pay as well.

The incident frustrated lawmakers who wanted to hold their own members accountable, and angered the public, which saw it as another example of how lawmakers are shielded from the consequences of their own actions and play by a different set of rules than everyone else.

“It’s an aggravating situation that allows full pay for no work,” opined the San Francisco Chronicle, urging lawmakers to fix the loophole.

The Legislature took it upon themselves to do just that. Lawmakers wrote and passed—overwhelmingly and with
strong bipartisan support—this constitutional amendment and placed it before voters for their approval.

The constitutional amendment would require the Assembly or the Senate to pass a resolution declaring why the member is being suspended. And to guard against political misuse, the resolution would require the higher threshold of a two-thirds vote for approval.

The National Conference of State Legislatures believes the power to discipline and expel members is inherent to a legislative body. That power has long been a staple of American democracy. It is common practice in most states.

The California Legislature has the power to expel members, and it should have the authority to suspend them without pay should the circumstances warrant.

Californians want and deserve a government that is worthy of their trust. Voters have passed many political reforms in the last decade to improve the governance in California, but more needs to be done to restore the public trust.

Proposition 50 is a commonsense step that would give lawmakers the authority to police their own, which is the right next step to holding all lawmakers accountable for serving the public interest. That’s why fair-minded Californians support Proposition 5O.

HELEN HUTCHISON, President, League of Women Voters of California

JAMES P. MAYER, President/CEO, California Forward

— California Secretary of State

Arguments AGAINST

Proposition 50 is a scam brought to you by those that would turn a blind eye to a culture of corruption in our State Capitol! Voters should oppose this measure because:

It perpetuates a culture of corruption in the State Capitol

It creates taxation without representation

Capitol insiders can use it to stifle political opposition

PERPETUATES A CULTURE OF CORRUPTION IN THE STATE CAPITOL

In 2014 when this measure was put on the ballot, nearly one of every ten California State Senators were either convicted or under indictment on multiple felony criminal counts including perjury, bribery and even gun-running. While this was going on, the author of Proposition 50, then the President Pro-Tem of the State Senate, refused to consider expelling these scoundrels from their offices of public trust—even after one of them was convicted by a jury!

Headlines in the news included:

“Attempt to Expel Convicted State Senator Derailed”—Capital Public Radio, 2/27/14

“Wright Sentencing Delayed; Senators Refuse to Expel Convicted Democrat”—Breitbart News Network, 7/8/14

Prop. 50 is designed to make you feel like the Sacramento political class actually wants to take a tough position to root out corruption. What they are really doing is hiding from you the fact that they would not make the tough decision to expel a convicted felon—their buddy.


TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION

Prop. 50 also denies millions of Californians their basic rights. It imposes taxation without representation. When a legislator is “suspended” instead of expelled, that means that the citizens in that district has no one representing their interests in the State Legislature. It means no election can take place to replace that bad actor, because he or she still “occupies” the office.

CAPITOL INSIDERS CAN USE PROP. 50 TO STIFLE POLITICAL OPPOSITION

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this measure is that it places into the state constitution a permanent means by which the majority can stifle minority opinion in the legislature. It is not hard to see where if you are a vocal member of the Senate or Assembly, on an issue that is not popular with your colleagues that you could have to face the reality that they could vote to suspend—to take away your voice and your vote in the legislature!

VOTE NO ON PROP. 50!

Visit: Stopprop50.com

JOEL ANDERSON, Senator, 38th District

BRIAN JONES, Assembly Member, 71st District

— California Secretary of State

Replies to Arguments FOR

Why did the legislature vote to add Prop. 50 to the ballot? Because Prop. 50 gives legislative leadership options NOT TO EXPEL fellow Assembly members and Senators who have been indicted or convicted of felony charges.

Prop. 50 isn’t necessary because the Constitution already allows Assembly members and Senators who have been indicted or convicted of felony charges to be removed from office by expelling them.

Instead, Prop. 50 allows those in the legislature who have been indicted or convicted to be suspended WITH or without pay and it robs constituents of their representation. For many Californians, politicians are already allowed to serve in office for too long. Allowing them to continue in office after criminal behavior under Prop. 50 is wrong!


If you believe that Assembly members and Senators should not be above the law, please vote NO and send the clear message: No more special privileges for Assembly members and Senators indicted or convicted of felonies.

Californians deserve honest representatives serving them—NOT indicted or convicted legislators who have been suspended from their duties yet remain in office, which Prop. 50 allows.

Vote No on Prop. 50—Stop the corruption!

JON FLEISCHMAN, President, California Term Limits

RUTH WEISS, San Diego County Coordinator, California Election Integrity Project

— California Secretary of State

Replies to Arguments AGAINST

This measure would give lawmakers the authority needed to discipline fellow Assembly Members and Senators—taking into consideration the nature of the allegation and other circumstances.

In severe cases, the Assembly and Senate already have the authority to expel a member. But expulsion is not always the just response. Even when a lawmaker is accused of a crime, given the presumption of innocence, it may not be appropriate to expel that person until all the facts are known and the case resolved.

In many such instances, lawmakers need the authority to respond in a reasonable and measured way—to do something short of expelling the member from the Legislature and something more than allowing that member to sit home and collect a taxpayer-funded paycheck.

Prop. 50 gives the Assembly or Senate the ability to suspend a member—and suspend the member’s pay.

The proposition sets a high bar to prevent lawmakers from unjustly punishing each other. It requires the house to publicly declare the reason for its action, and the resolution must be approved by a two-thirds vote—never easy and almost always requiring bipartisan support.

The measure does not inoculate the Legislature or lawmakers from corrupting influences, and more needs to be done to encourage ethical behavior, increase transparency, investigate complaints and enforce the law.

Prop. 50 gives lawmakers one more way to respond to ethical breaches by making it clear that when the circumstances warrant, lawmakers can be suspended without pay.

JAMES P. MAYER, President/CEO, California Forward

HELEN HUTCHISON, President, League of Women Voters of California

— California Secretary of State

Yes on Proposition 50

No data currently available.
Bar graph showing total amount relative to total amount for this entire campaign.

No on Proposition 50

No data currently available.
Bar graph showing total amount relative to total amount for this entire campaign.
Yes on Proposition 50
California Forward
Address:
1107 9th Street, Suite 650
Sacramento, CA 95814
No on Proposition 50
Vote No on Prop. 50—Stop the Corruption
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