For your consideration, the California Legislature recently voted to raise the State’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees to grab more than $5.4 billion a year out of Californian’s pockets. This was accomplished by “negotiating” or giving key legislators that would vote for the new taxes nearly $1 billion of taxpayer money for “projects”in their districts.
In the days following the several news outlets ran stories with headlines like, “Buying’ the votes for a gas-tax hike: Is it illegal or just good politics?”There were statements from legal professors and ethics watchdogs that justified the wrangling in the stories as grand efforts at compromise and consensus.
All the handwringing over the “legality” of efforts to obtain legislators votes centers on the language of Article 4, Section 15 of the California Constitution which says anyone attempting to influence the “vote or action of a member of the Legislature” by “bribery, promise of reward, intimidation, or other dishonest means” is guilty of a felony. The people that the news media quoted pardons everyone of any wrongdoing by saying that no prosecutor is willing to pursue felony charges unless the legislator “personally benefits” by their vote. (Emphasis added.)
Interestingly, the original language of the 1879 California Constitution regarding bribing legislators banned “lobbying” and included these words, “Any member of the Legislature who shall be influenced in his vote or action upon any matter pending before the Legislature by any reward, or promise of future reward, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, upon conviction thereof, in addition to such punishment as may be provided by law, shall be disfranchised and forever disqualified from holding any office or public trust.”
With the original constitutional language in mind, there’s little wonder that liberals such as Governor Brown, Speaker Rendon, Pro Tem De Leon, and the legislative members who gotassurances connected with the more than $1 billion of taxpayer money are among those who believe in the “living document” constitutional philosophy.
It’s unfortunate that there’s no prosecutor, whether the California Attorney General or any of the 58 district attorneys of California, that is willing to believe offering a legislator “project” funding would be a “reward” or “promise of future reward” as stated in the original state constitution and should be a felony. I guess we are already a “Sanctuary State” for politicians willing to buy or be bought to make the next election easier for themselves or their benefactors.