Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

California won’t have more than than 11,000 legislators after all.

An initiative that would have increased the size of the California Legislature to more than 11,000 and substantially reduced the number of people in each Assembly and state Senate district has failed to qualify for the ballot, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced.

The Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act needed valid signatures from 585,407 registered voters — 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2014 general election — to qualify for the November ballot, Padilla said Thursday. It is not known how many signatures it received.

The initiative would have reduced the size of an Assembly district to about 5,000 people and a state Senate district to about 10,000. Because the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that California’s population was 38.8 million in 2014, there would be 7,760 Assembly members and 3,880 Senate members.

The members of the Senate would choose a 40-member Working Committee and the members of the Assembly would choose an 80-member Working Committee, the same number of members each body now has.

The initiative set the salaries of the members of the Working Committees at $50,000 per year and the other legislators at $1,000 per year.

Proponent John Cox said he sought to increase the size of the Legislature to make it more responsive to the public.

Cox told City News Service the initiative was inspired by his time in New Hampshire in 2007 and 2008 running in the state’s Republican presidential primary. (He received 39 votes.)

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has 400 members, the third largest parliamentary body in the English-speaking world behind the British Parliament and Congress. Members are paid $200 for their two-year terms.

“The people who served in those legislative positions were not career politicians or professional fundraisers, but they were retirees, they were small business people, they were homemakers, they were activists in the community, they were a bunch of interested citizens who did a good job as legislators and they weren’t owned by special interests, or unions or big businesses or other people who had an axe to grind or desire for some kind of legislation,” Cox said.

“They went into the state Legislature expecting to do good things for the people, not just for some funding interest.”

If adopted by the voters, the Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act would have decreased state spending on the Legislature of more than $140 million annually, according to an estimate produced by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance.

There would have been increased county election costs, potentially in the range of tens of million of dollars initially and significantly lower amounts annually thereafter, according to the estimate.

—City News Service

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