In the 1960s and 70s, California’s legislature was widely seen as a model for state governance, a far cry from the way Sacramento is viewed now. What’s changed? A former lawmaker offers his perspective
California had only half as many residents when Bill Bagley (R-San Rafael) was in the legislature (1960-74) and the business of governing was less complicated in many respects. In those days, he recalls, lobbyist-sponsored dinners and events served as the common ground for legislators from both major parties to build the social relationships they would draw upon in conducting the state’s business.
Balancing the state budget has been the overriding political consideration in California for more than a decade now, the biggest issue in the recall election that carried Arnold Schwartzenegger into office. Even so, Bagley faults the Governor for making matters worse.
Bagley, a moderate Republican, believes California’s new open primary law will help ease the partisan logjam in Sacramento, but he also sees a critical need for impartial redistricting in the state, as the current lines were deliberately drawn to perpetuate each major party’s hold on “their” districts.
Looking ahead to the November gubernatorial race in California, Bagely and another former state legislator, John Vasconcellos, have drafted a series of 20 serious policy questions they challenge Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman to answer publically.
Former Assembly Member Bill Bagley speaking at the podium, is joined by (from left to right) former Assembly Members Jim Cunneen and Fred Keeley, former Senate Republican Leader Jim Nielsen and former Senator Lucy Killea, and by former Assembly Republican Leader Michael Villines.
Promotional copy about Bill Bagley's book:
"Politics is personal," Bill Bagley likes to say, and here is a personal journey through the politics of America's most extraordinary state. California's Golden Years offers tales of cash-filled envelopes, all-night poker games, and all the free liquor a legislator could drink. But the stories and anecdotes offer more than mere fun - they illuminate a larger lesson learned during Bagley's 14 years in the California Legislature. Personal relationships are, in Bagley's view, the glue that ensures working relationships and pragmatic compromises. "Those who play together," he writes, "say together." Today, as the Golden State faces unprecedented challenges, California's Golden Years provides both a look back toward a fondly remembered era and an insider's explanation for why politics seemed to work better then than now.