Commentary: Is California Legislature capable of reform?

Political reform will never come from the California Legislature. It must be imposed by voters through the ballot box.

So says the conventional wisdom. On Thursday, lawmakers took some steps in challenging the CW.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez announced legislation that, if enacted, could make several significant changes to California's broken budget system.

The centerpiece: Lawmakers could approve a budget by a simple majority, rather than the current two-thirds vote requirement, and would forfeit their pay for failing to meet the constitutional deadline for approving the budget.

The proposal would restrict programs from being created or expanded unless there is money to pay for them.

Another proposal would apply that same pay-as-you-go standard to initiatives. Promoters of initiatives would be required to identify sources of revenue to pay for ballot measures that, say, lengthen prison sentences or finance stem cell research.

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