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Lila Littlejohn: Two days in the capitol

Out of the Newsroom

Posted: March 31, 2010 10:31 p.m.
Updated: April 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
Part 2

The setting for the second day of briefings in the Santa Clarita Valley lobbying/fact finding/networking trip to Sacramento was a hearing room in the Legislative Office Building.

The dark-paneled chamber, with its courtroom-like arrangement, was imposing.

Engraved on the wall above the elevated dais was the message: “Participation in the rights of citizenship presumes participation in the duties of citizenship.”

I did a Google search for the quote, and it seems the name of the first individual who uttered the line is lost to history.

But the message was clearly delivered to local residents by several different legislators and officials during the two-day tour organized by Jeri Seratti-Goldman and Carl Goldman of KHTS AM-1220 and attended by about 75 local business, community, government and media leaders from the SCV.

Every one of our locally elected legislators sent to Sacramento is in the minority party at the Capitol. But the atmosphere was not one of resigned despair — rather, it was one of hopeful optimism.

And those legislators clearly expected Santa Clarita Valley leaders, and others, to help them find a way out of California’s dire financial situation.

Challenge to get involved

Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, challenged educators to find solutions to state overspending on education and bring those solutions to their representatives — not ask for more money.

He noted the state’s educational system has many administrative layers and proposed that some could be eliminated. One possibility, he said, would be to “do away” with county offices of education.

“I never hear from educational leaders, ‘Let’s change all this,’” he said.

“In education, we budget about $16,000 per student,” Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Simi Valley, told SCV visitors at a later session.

“By the time (funds) get to the classroom, you’re lucky if it’s $5,000” per student that’s left, Strickland said.

The layers of administration that absorb that $11,000 per student need to be eliminated — or drastically reduced, locally elected legislators agreed.

Mandates, funded or otherwise
“The voters are angry; they want things fixed, but they want us to fix it,” said Sen. Bob Huff, R-Walnut, Republican Caucus chairman. “We need the tools to do that.”

One of the tools the representatives clearly wanted was the ability to roll back mandates.

Assembly Bill 2196, introduced by Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, is aimed at doing just that.

Government-imposed mandates cost each California business an average of $50,000 a year, Smyth told the group.

AB 2196 would revise the role of the existing Office of Small Business Advocate, charging the advocate with commissioning a study "of the costs of specific state regulations on small businesses and identify the 10 costliest regulations on California small businesses."

With the aid of a small business advisory committee, the advocate would be required to submit recommendations to revise burdensome regulations by October 2011. Wage and hour, insurance and health and safety protections would not be among the issues the advocate could consider.

Other bills Smyth has pending would give California companies a greater preference on bidding for state contracts and reduce the power of nonelected boards to regulate.

To me, legislators' challenges to us to reduce education spending or repeal mandates sounded a bit like they were foisting their jobs off on us.

How are we, the people of the Santa Clarita Valley, to come up with a plan for reducing the state's bureaucracy or provide tools that allow legislators to overturn burdensome government regulations that were mostly, if not entirely, imposed by the Legislature?

Isn't it their jobs - not ours - to get California out of its current mess?

Next installment: Can Santa Clarita Valley residents provide some answers to the challenge?

Lila Littlejohn is executive editor of The Signal. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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