Understanding the Neighborhood Legislature (NL) – Terms and Arguments

Each presently drawn Assembly district is subdivided into 100 Neighborhood Assembly districts with 5,000 voters (2 or 3 precincts) each and each Senate district is subdivided into 100 Neighborhood Senate districts of 10,000 voters (5 precincts) each.  Each of the 12,000 Neighborhood Representatives makes $1,000 per year and works out of their home.

The 100 Neighborhood Assemblymen and 100 Neighborhood Senators in each large Assembly or Senate district meet in convention to elect a Working Committee member (Assembly or Senate).  Therefore, 80 Assembly Working Committee members and 40 Senate Working Committee members go to Sacramento.  Staff is reduced by at least 50% and Working Committee pay is $30,000 plus expenses.  The initiative was scored to save at least $100 million per year.

Campaigns in the Neighborhood Districts will be door to door, face to face, voter by voter.  Social media, email and Internet campaigning will be key; fundraising will be almost non-existent and of little effect.


 Implications:

  1. No more money politics. Big spending is ineffective and counterproductive – this neutralizes the money and manpower advantage of the special interests; attacks can be responded to immediately and at low or no cost; Super Pac spending is able to be countered and of little effect

  2. Political equality. The power we take away from super-wealthy special interest groups is returned to the people, thus restoring their voices that are currently drowned out by money. All communities and individuals will finally have genuine representation in Sacramento, regardless of income bracket.

  3. Know your Rep. Representation is face to face, building trust and involving direct feedback. Neighborhood Representatives know their constituents, building rapport for advice on future elections and other races. Voter integrity is enhanced by Representatives and candidates having direct knowledge of voters in their districts

  4. Legislative integrity and efficiency. Neighborhood Representatives make decisions on policy because they are good policy not because a special interest is funding their campaign. Fewer bills are introduced as many now are funded by special interests looking for favors from government

  5. Minority empowerment. Minority voter outreach will go beyond pandering with benefits to providing opportunity to share power and have a seat at the legislative table, opportunities for which are limited now.


Opposition Arguments

  1. Large numbers of new politicians created – 12,000 total.  Response:  Neighborhood Legislators earn $1,000 a year and work out of home – not like today’s politicians

  2. Unworkable to have 12,000 members of legislature.  Response:  Working Committee is the same size as today’s legislature and will delegate its authority to its subcommittees, just as today’s legislature does.

  3. Constituents lose representation since they don’t vote directly for Working Committee members who go to Sacramento.  Response:  Today’s legislature likewise delegates its lawmaking authority to subcommittees of the whole.  The NL is merely the 12,000 members delegating its authority in the same way.  By retaining an up or down vote, Neighborhood legislators retain ultimate power and control. 

  4. Special interests can overwhelm the small districts with workers.  Response:  they can do this but key is that the Neighborhood candidates can go door to door and make their own persuasive arguments easily and cheaply; they will also have built trust with constituents; they can be armed with persuasive policy arguments not superficial slogans.

  5. Who will do this job – won’t we get legislators with axes to grind or bad motives?  Response:  In a state of 38 million, we should be able to find 12,000 interested citizens who feel a civic duty, particularly since it doesn’t require much campaigning and almost no fundraising.  New Hampshire, a tiny state, has been operating for over 100 years with tiny districts and almost no pay for its legislature (they make $100 a year).  They get candidates who are retired, part time homemakers, college students, small businesspersons, etc.  Candidates with an axe to grind or singular agenda usually don’t get elected and even if they do are drowned out by an overwhelming number with proper motivations.

  6. This has never been done before – we don’t know how it will work.  Response:  It is a fundamental change to be sure but one that removes the corruptive influence of special interest money and enhances voter contact and trust.  Modeled after New Hampshire, which has had tiny districts for over 100 years and where little money is spent on legislative races; legislators are not in thrall to special interests.

  7. Constituents lose service because of staff cuts and reduced power of legislator as one of 12,000 instead of one of 40 Senators or 80 Assemblymen.  Response:  Instead of small number of district offices staffed by interns in a huge district, constituents will have access to a legislator they know and have a personal relationship with.  Working Committee members will be more responsive to the 99 Neighborhood Legislators they need to get re-elected.  Executive branch will be responsive as each of 12,000 has a vote; the executive branch will need these votes for its legislative agenda.  Surveys of current legislators reveal an average of around 3000 constituent contacts/service requests a year; divide this by 100 means each Neighborhood Legislator would have about 30 or 2.5 per month; certainly not an undue burden.

  8. Special interests will still spend huge amounts to overwhelm candidates in the tiny districts.  Response:  This isn’t how it has worked in New Hampshire.  In that state, the tiny districts don’t get won by those that spend big money.  Any one who spends a lot is targeted as a overly ambitious or corrupt in their motives and is usually defeated by competitors spending almost no money.

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