When three members of the California Legislature were suspended for a variety of alleged crimes in 2014, there was nothing in the state’s Constitution that allowed other lawmakers to suspend them without pay without expelling them — which did not seem right because the criminal proceedings were ongoing.
Proposition 50 seeks to right that through Senate Constitutional Amendment 17, which essentially allows the Legislature to both suspend lawmakers and their salaries and benefits and prohibit them from “exercising any of the rights, privileges, duties or powers of his or her office, or from utilizing any resources of the Legislature while the suspension is in effect.” It would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, and though opponents suggest it would allow lawmakers to suspend without pay any member of the state Senate or Assembly as a tool for political retribution, the likelihood of this is slim. Besides, current law allows suspension with pay, so essentially this amendment simply allows the Legislature to not pay the suspended lawmakers.
With legislators’ annual salary of approximately $90,000, the amount of money saved through this amendment is virtually meaningless in the scale of the larger state budget. However, it does allow the Legislature the ability to ensure those lawmakers who are suspended and not performing their duties do not get paid. It is essentially a piece of cleanup legislation that will provide the authority to hold lawmakers accused of breaking the law accountable and provides further assurance to Californians that lawmakers not performing their duties not get paid. Governmental reform takes many forms and while this particular piece of legislation and ballot proposition is not wide-sweeping or impactful, it is important in allowing California to hold its legislators accountable. Vote yes on Proposition 50.