By Craig W. Anderson
California’s status as a severely blue state was confirmed in November when the Democrat party assumed a two-thirds majority – a super majority – in both the Assembly and the Senate, an occurrence not seen since 1883 for Democrats and 1933 for Republicans.
"We appear to have entered a new political reality that could become the norm," said CFBF President Paul Wenger of the Democrats super majority. "We in agriculture have a choice. We can either sit back and wait to see what happens, or we can work to make sure that urban legislators understand the importance of California agriculture."
He also said the ag sector must step up its commitment to elect legislators of either party "who will consider the concerns of California farmers and ranchers."
According to Wenger, the past legislative session showed if legislators are given the facts about ag from farmers and ranchers they can break ranks to vote in favor of agriculture.
May not be catastrophic
Writing in Ag Alert, Wenger noted that "many fear significant tax increases" but with voters approving Proposition 30 and Gov.
Brown insisting "that voters should have a say in the taxes levied, we are hopeful he will stand by his word and resist any effort to impose additional taxes until Proposition 30 revenues have had an effect."
But it is scary
"Democrats can raise taxes, override the governor’s veto, and change legislative rules without the input of Republicans. It’s scary," said SJFB President Bruce Fry. "Again, we must try to educate legislators many of whom won’t be from rural or ag areas."
Politicians promise to be good
Gov. Brown and leaders in the state Senate and Assembly said they will use restraint, with Brown declaring there would be no binge spending and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg gave assurances that his now dominant party would "exercise this new power with strength, but also with humility and reason." Some would question his ability to accomplish this based on the past performance of the spendthrift Legislature.
Blame and credit
Being the sole party in control of the legislature brings added pressure to Democrats who can take credit when things go well but will be hit with the blame when the Legislature makes mistakes, which is inevitable.
"The Democrats won’t be able to blame obstructionist Republications when things go wrong," Fry said. "They’ll have to deal effectively with budgets, taxes and regulations and they haven’t been very successful in doing that for years."
Dems promise to work together
Steinberg and Assembly speaker John Perez both vowed to work with Republicans, Perez noting, "The way one should govern is trying to bring everyone together. There is still a role for Republicans to express themselves through minority offices, through committees, etc."
Super majority not immediate
Richard Matteis, CFBF administrator, pointed out that "It will take some time for the super majority to fully manifest itself and it will require the better part of 2013 to attain the super majority."
Senators were elected to Congress and must be replaced and a legislator will resign to pursue another office so there will be special elections and thus a delay in reaching the two-thirds majority for the better part of a year.
This grace period will allow Republicans to work with moderate Democrats who aren’t inclined to support radical and controversial ideas proposed by the ruling party.
Dems already had majority
"Democrats have had the majority in both houses so a super majority isn’t exactly a surprise," Matteis said. "And the moderate Democrat contingent will make veto overrides problematic. They’ll also push back on controversial concepts. It will take a year for the Legislature to become acclimated to the change."
Process begins again
Farm Bureau will have to reach out and begin educating legislators, especially the 30 new to state government. "We must build relationships with whoever’s there in the legislature and show the importance of agriculture to them and their constituents, even those from urban areas," Matteis said.
Farmers and ranchers stuck here
Those involved in ag can’t just pick up their farm or ranch and move out of California, Wenger wrote in Ag Alert. "If the future of California is going to be the one we want, we must quit complaining and start investing in the political future of our state. To do anything less is to allow those who don’t have agriculture’s best interest at heart to set the course or our regulatory and business environment for the next 12 years."
Giving up not allowed
"Farm Bureau and farmers and ranchers must remain active," said Fry. "We can’t give up and must do the right thing and educate people about how this super majority will affect business."
"Whatever happens, it’s going to be an interesting year," Fry said.