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Richard Rider

How the dangerous 1994 California Constitution Revision Commission was defanged. Hint: I was a member.

In 1993, California’s Republican Governor Pete Wilson joined with the Democrat-controlled State Assembly and State Senate to form the California Constitution Revision Commission (CCRC).  The stated goal was to modernize and improve our bulky California Constitution.  The REAL goal (at least the PRIMARY goal) was to gut Prop 13, making it easier for our state and local governments to raise taxes.

Our centrist governor and the two state legislatures each picked 1/3 of the commission appointees.  As a result, the initial commission was overwhelmingly Democrat, with a handful of mostly moderate Republicans included as window dressing.  Uh oh.

Since 1970, Democrats have controlled both CA state legislatures. With one exception.  In 1994 with the Republican Party’s push for their Contract with America, the State Assembly enjoyed a brief two-year GOP majority. 

The new Republican Assembly Speaker Kurt Pringle — recognizing the “kangaroo court” nature of the Commission — decided to change the Assembly commission selectees to a more nonpartisan, fiscally-conservative group.  He appointed three Republicans, one Democrat and one third party representative — Libertarian Richard Rider.  The one thing all five of us had in common was our strong support for fiscally tightfisted viewpoints.

For two years our CCRC met monthly in Sacramento.  I’d fly up in the AM, attend the meeting, and then fly back in the evening. We didn’t get paid, but the CCRC members’ transportation costs were reimbursed.

Some of what the CCRC ultimately recommended in the 2016 CCRC report DID make sense, but it seemed to me that it just provided cover for the pro-tax, bigger government provisions that would have dramatically changed California — for the worse.

Our plucky minority was outvoted on such key provisions, which was no surprise.  But when the final report was published, we got the commission to include our minority report which made the case against the worst provisions (starting on page 86 of the report).  Steve Frates was the brains behind that effort.  Eight members cosigned our dissent.
Larry P. Arnn                           Edward J. Erler
Alan Heslop                             Steven Frates
Senator William Leonard         Joel Fox
Richard Rider                           George Babikian

The net result was that when the state GOP legislative members saw our minority report, the overall recommendations of the commission were rejected.  We gave them the ammo they needed to vote “no.”

As far as our jolly little cabal was concerned, it was a total victory for our side — mission accomplished.  A bullet dodged.

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