SACRAMENTO — A proposed ballot measure sponsored by Rancho Santa Fe venture capitalist John Cox would create a so-called “Neighborhood Legislature” with 12,000 citizen-legislators in an effort to weaken the grip of special interests in the state Capitol.
Should Legislature Expand to Shrink Special Interest Power?
The secretary of state announced this week that initiative backers have been cleared to start collecting the necessary 807,000 signatures of registered voters by May 19 to qualify it for the November ballot.
The proposal calls for dividing the 80 Assembly districts and 40 Senate districts into thousands of smaller neighborhood districts with populations of up to 10,000 constituents. This pool of citizen-legislators would then elect select a representatives to send to Sacramento.
Cox is convinced that the change will force lawmakers to spend more time in direct contact with voters and less with the lobbyists and other influence peddlers in Sacramento. It should also save taxpayers money, he added.
“These special interests dominate Sacramento and the ballot box,” Cox said in a statement. “By creating smaller, more localized districts, we will fundamentally reform the electoral process, elect citizen-legislators and get special-interest money out of politics.”
Cox said MapLight, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics, estimates that it takes on average $1 million to win a Senate seat and $700,000 to be elected to the Assembly.
The larger group of citizen-legislators would help draft policy and would direct representatives on how to vote through online ballots on each piece of legislation. The actual representatives would earn $50,000, about half of what the average lawmaker draws today. The larger body of citizen-legislators who do not go to Sacramento would be paid $1,000 annually.
Currently, the average member of the Assembly represents about 500,000 constituents and a senator twice that.
Cox has said he has committed $500,000 of his own money to qualify the initiative.
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