California

California Lawmakers Refuse to Accept Any Limits on Their Power

Only a return to constitutional principles can save the Golden State.

|

The main problem with the California Legislature is not that it spends money far faster than it comes in, or squanders it on absurd programs and on the enrichment of those Californians who work for the state. Those are symptoms of the real problem, which is that the Legislature recognizes no natural limits on its power.

If a legislator doesn't like something, expect a proposal to ban it. If a legislator likes a particular idea, expect plans to build a bureaucracy to implement it. The only issues off the table involve fixing those budgetary and governmental problems that the state government is legitimately tasked with handling.

When you see supposedly serious efforts to address a problem, such as the Legislature's last-minute embrace of pension reform, you need only look closely to see that such reform is a fig leaf for something else. This particular reform package does little but was passed after polls showed the governor's tax-increase initiative (Prop. 30) for November to be on thin ice. It's a bill designed to help a political campaign—"Look, voters, we are serious about reforming government, so go ahead and vote yourself (or your wealthier neighbors) a hefty tax hike!"

So another legislative session comes to a close and a flurry of new rules and regulations is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto. California bans and regulations, including those emanating from local governments, have gotten so out of hand that regulation-happy New Yorkers at The New York Times are making fun of our state now.

"Once known for its sunny, freewheeling disposition—a live-and-let-live sensibility rooted in Western ideals and relied upon by generations of surfer dudes and misbehaving Hollywood stars—this region has long been as regulated as anywhere," the Times reported recently. "Lately, however, cities, school districts and even libraries have been outlawing chunks of what used to pass here for birthright at a startling clip."

The article focused on new local bans on everything ranging from fire pits at Newport Beach to the wearing of obnoxious perfumes in libraries in Southern California. But it also mentioned the Legislature's recent "ban on psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight" as a glaring example of the Capitol's ban-it mentality.

One of the very few benefits of having liberal Democrats running everything in California is that they won't be meddling in our bedrooms, as the cliché goes. But the gay-change therapy ban shows that liberal activists can be even more meddlesome in people's personal lives than conservatives.

If I were a gay teenager and wanted to become straight, why shouldn't I be able to go to a licensed psychologist to try out the therapy? Are families incapable of making personal decisions without the dictates of regulators and legislators?

As one psychologist told The Wall Street Journal with regard to the anti-gay therapy, "People report that the therapies exacerbate their own struggles and distress." He said it can hurt teen's self-esteem and sense of well being.

Lots of things harm our self-esteem, but that doesn't mean the Legislature should ban them. Huge budget deficits and pension liabilities hurt my psychological sense of well-being—but I don't expect the Legislature to assuage my feelings by dealing with those matters, even though they are issues that legislators legitimately should be handling.

Another psychologist quoted by The New York Times got it right when he called the ban an attempt to intimidate therapists and undermine parental rights.

Sen. Ted Lieu, the Torrance Democrat who authored the gay-therapy ban, called the therapy "quackery," but now teens and parents are more likely to head to real quacks—shamans without licenses or training. Or they will turn to religious practitioners. Even California's legislators don't have the power to ban therapy in those settings thanks to religious freedoms.

Lieu's office recently sent out a statement boasting of the 17 bills he authored that have been approved by the Legislature. But Lieu, who apparently is competing for the title, "California's Ultimate Nanny," is sadly typical in Sacramento.

In addition to the gay psychotherapy ban, Lieu is proud of bills that crack down on used-car dealers who offer high-interest-rate loans to people who buy cars at their stores and forbid landlords from requiring tenants to pay their rent online. Is there no area of life, not matter how petty, that willing buyers and willing sellers can't figure out without governmental interference?

He also authored a bill to speed up state payments to people who are victims of corporate fraud—"smooth-talking hustlers," as Lieu refers to them. I see nothing in his list of bills that protects California residents from the smooth-talking hustlers who run the Capitol, and promise us every good and noble thing known to mankind, but can't even deliver us an honestly balanced budget.

Last December, Lieu threatened legislative action against the home-improvement chain Lowe's after it pulled its ads from a TV show called All American Muslim. Even if one agrees that pulling the ads was bigoted, as the always politically correct Lieu claims, shouldn't private companies have the right to pick and choose where they advertise?

Lieu did author one good bill, which celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. That makes it even more ironic that he and his allies spent most of the legislative year shredding the document they want to celebrate.

The Constitution was designed to put boundaries around government so that it protects our life, liberty, and property without intruding on our freedoms. California's government, in its hubris, recognizes no such limits. Until Californians rediscover the importance of limiting their government, we will be at the mercy of the petty totalitarians who run the Capitol.

NEXT: Federal Judge Backs Government Seizure of Rare Gold Coins

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. It’s been a while, but since you mention it – fuck California.

    That is all.

    1. Fuck Michigan, too!

      Also, Google celebrates the 46th Anniversary of Star Trek.

      1. 46th? Just couldn’t wait 4 years? Or is the celebration traveling back from the future due to reversed neutron polarity?

        1. We had to celebrate now, since this is the last chance before the end of the Mayan calendar, duh.

    2. Holy Hell I want to get out of this damned state…. Reason only mentions a tiny fraction of all the bullshit here… it’s not possible to mention even half of it.

  2. Are families incapable of making personal decisions without the dictates of regulators and legislators?

    Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa ha ha ha ha ha haaa!

    Wheeeeeew! That was good!

    1. You submitted the appropriate forms to obtain a permit for that guffaw, right?

      1. Are you a licensed questioner?

        1. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

  3. Anyone who thinks these loonies are going to stop now or even slow down just don’t fully realize what we are dealing with here. But I would think the display of insanity the last few days at the DNC might start turning the light on for a quite a few more people. The leftists only know one way to go, FORWARD at exponentially increasing speed, right off the proverbial cliff.

    1. LEFTWARD.

  4. The only issues off the table involve fixing those budgetary and governmental problems that the state government is legitimately tasked with handling

    Well, at least they’re nothing like the *Federal* government… that would be horrible.

    1. Seems like those are the two areas that most need fixing. If our budget system wasn’t so complicated and confusing maybe we wouldn’t have so many problems and same with the operation of government. Right now every dollar that comes into the state has already been allocated to somewhere before it even gets there. The state promises the different departments a certain amount of money and then when it doesn’t come in they scramble around and put measures in front of the people to raise their taxes again to pay for it and threaten that if they don’t they will cut something important, like education..

  5. The problem as I see it as it pertains to local government, especially in urban areas is that government attracts people who aren’t regular people who live and work in the community in any way which actually represents their constituents.

    They aren’t business owners, IT managers, grocery store clerks, construction workers, truck drivers, dock workers, dog trainers, tobacco purveyors, auto mechanics… they’re none of these things.

    They’re an amalgam of community organizers, activists, non-profit executives– think Obama but at the local scale.

    Here in Seattle, you get a mayor who ran the local chapter of the Sierra Club, you get a transportation secretary who was a critical mass biking activist. Another guy was a global anti-poverty worker. Once in a while you’ll get a lawyer, but even then they worked for some legal team that concentrated on “social justice” issues. Another was a legal advisor to the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund. The closest thing you get to a real job is once in a while one was a columnist for the Times or the PI– who spent all their time covering these groups I just mentioned. They’re all professional, long time government apparatchiks.

    Their brains simply aren’t wired to think in any way except an interventionist way.

    “I’m pro-intervention”. That woman in the Reason DNC video summed it up nicely. We’re done here.

  6. And then there’s banning the bans. When San Francisco banned circumcision in the city, the state legislature passed a law which banned California municipalities from passing such bans.

    1. I’m all for banning bans.

      In Washington, the state bans any municipal legislation which bans guns.

      In fact, it bans any gun restrictions that go further than any state restrictions.

      1. Frankly, I’m not convinced that banning the bans is the right way to go about it.

        “[A]ny municipal legislation which bans guns” ought to be attacked in the courts on constitutional grounds; those bans are wrong because the 2nd Amendment, not because the state dog can mount the municipal dog.

        I’m far from being a constitutional expert, so this is only my considered opinion; I’m open to arguments why state bans on municipal bans is the correct solution to the problem.

        1. My response was partial snark, but only partial.

          To be specific, we live under some semblence of gun restrictions in this country, like them or not.

          Some places are more liberal than others, and as it stands, Washington is surprisingly liberal on gun laws considering it’s a bluer-than-blue-found-in-nature blue state.

          What the state law says is that no municipality may enact any restriction or regulation which goes beyond the state statutes.

          I actually think that’s pretty reasonable. It doesn’t really say anything about banning guns, but I do strongly believe it’s the only reason there is no defacto gun ban in Seattle like there is in Chicago. It’s because they can’t.

  7. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to comment on this…

  8. Lieu did author one good bill, which celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

    Wrong. A meaningless, symbolic gesture, and a waste of tax dollars. You should know better.

    1. When legislators author bills to honor a thing, presume that they honor it in name to make up for violating it in deed.

  9. “Everything that is not banned is mandatory”
    People have started voting with their feet, the people with the MONEY have started voting with their feet.
    Businesses and individuals who are fed up with the out of control gerrymandered state of affairs in Sacramento are leaving the state in ever increasing numbers.
    The whole situation will implode when there are no more businesses and wealth individuals left to loot. The first tremors of the impending disaster are being seen in the increasing number of cities declaring bankruptcy.
    The gravy train is off the rails, the wheels just haven’t stopped turning yet.

  10. “Sen. Ted Lieu, the Torrance Democrat who authored the gay-therapy ban, called the therapy “quackery,” but now teens and parents are more likely to head to real quacks?shamans without licenses or training. Or they will turn to religious practitioners.”

    Um – psychologists, trained shamans, untrained shamans, religious practitioners … the author is implying that there is some difference between these, but I can’t see it.

  11. “One of the very few benefits of having liberal Democrats running everything in California is that they won’t be meddling in our bedrooms, as the clich? goes. But the gay-change therapy ban shows that liberal activists can be even more meddlesome in people’s personal lives than conservatives.”

    And who has been responsible for this “cliche?”

  12. Government should protect citizens ?

    1. Absolutely! Right now, Sacramento is more focused on keeping donors happy than representing and addressing our needs.

  13. Okay. I find it very telling that Reason spent seven paragraphs extolling the virtues of anti-gay brainwashing. Not merely mentioning the ban but actually defending and promoting the practice.

    Homosexuality may not be “normal” in the sense that a lot of people are gay but it is not an illness or a defect – it’s the way some people are made. Having homosexual inclinations, thoughts or fantasies is also entirely normal. Ex-gay therapy (or any other kind) is not needed. It only promotes irrational fear.

    1. SusanM| 9.8.12 @ 10:53AM |#
      “Okay. I find it very telling that Reason spent seven paragraphs extolling the virtues of anti-gay brainwashing.”

      Uh, reading, How does it work?
      Nothing in the entire article ‘extolled the virtues of anti-gay brainwashing’.

    2. If you are against a ban on something then you must naturally be in favour of whatever is being banned. That is how it works, right Susan?

      1. you mock her, as is justified, but it really is astounding how people think this way

        i am against the ridiculous smoking ban in bars, for example. but i fucking HATE cigarette smoke. it’s just not the place of govt. to tell a BAR whether they can allow smoking or not

        the points about the state preemption firearms ban are spot on btw

        seattle ALREADY tried to get around it via executive order with a ban on guns in parks. the AG et al told them it was illegal. the mayor DID NOT CAR. he passed the executive order

        a lawyer set himself up with standing by calling the PD telling them he was going to the park and was armed and would meet them there. he got “trespassed” from the park (told to leave since he was armed) and he had his case

        seattle lost

        seattle city council members (might have been licata i don’t recall off hand) have been on record saying they would support a handgun BAN in seattle if they could get one passed

        btw, this story is just another example of how much california sucks and how much WA is way better

        we are fucking libertopia compared to cali

    3. Yes why have licensed psychologists weigh in when Democrats and SusanM and wave their hands and say “it’s the way some people are made.” Who was the anti-science party again? Good grief.

      1. Exactly. They should stick to one side of the fence. I’m personally all for people doing whatever they want to do with their life as long as it doesn’t affect others. That includes even when said people don’t have the same ideals as I do.

  14. Here are More characteristics, novel style,varieties,and good quality low price

    http://avoo.net/ajgjk

    http://avoo.net/ajgjk

  15. This article, and the comments accompanying it spell out exactly how government grows into a many-tentacled behemoth that strangles liberty. I think it is a keeper.

  16. I was born and raised in California. Nice weather. But I got the hell out a few months ago. Never been happier.

  17. Here are More characteristics, novel style,varieties,and good quality low price

    http://l2y.eu/dddqh

    http://l2y.eu/dddqh

  18. Our legislature has so many issues from the ground up that it is difficult to determine where to start fixing things. Pension reform? tax reform? School reform?

    Before we even consider bloating the bureaucracy more with laws and money, we should worry about the problems we already have.

  19. Of course the legislature doesn’t want to limit its own power. More generally, they do not want us looking too closely at them, for fear that we will see how blatantly they waste our money and pander to special interests, ignoring us until they need more money. Enough is enough!

  20. Of course they do not want limits on their power. They would like to continue their path of irresponsible spending with NO accountability. We need to see improvements in both of these areas. They need to be more accountable to the voters, whose money they are squandering!

  21. It is pretty pathetic where our state is at right now. I know we are one of the largest economies in the world but that doesn’t mean our economy is doing well or has a good system. I’m really tired of hearing that we have problems and that nothing is being done to fix them. Instead their solution always seems to be to raise taxes. Which I get needs to happen every once in a while but if our system worked better and all the money that comes in wasn’t already tied up to go to one thing then maybe when the legislature makes a mistake like agreeing to increase pensions before they had the money to do so the people wouldn’t suffer because of it. Now we have the tough choice of agreeing to what they are asking and paying for the pensions or watching the schools and colleges be cut drastically again…

  22. Politicians care more about fattening their pockets. It is sad to see the level of political power abuse. Instead of using that authority to rebuild California, they are singlehandedly breaking the state down!

  23. Voters need their voices back, and the only way to make sure that happens is to silence special interests and donors.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.