Legislature must be allowed to legislate

Guest Columnist

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Over the last few weeks, I can’t help but feel that our “beloved” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must be confused about his job description. As many of you probably already know, Schwarzenegger is pursuing a course of action that will schedule a special election later this year so that Californians can vote on referendums related to pensions, teachers’ pay, and the way congressional districts in the state are mapped out.

I’ll bet people are wondering why the governor plans to bring these issues, which the average person knows very little about, directly to the voters. Well, it’s supposedly because after many months of negotiating with other Sacramento lawmakers, the governor has been unable to reach a compromise that will best serve the constituents that he and the other lawmakers have been elected to represent. Therefore, as a last resort to “best serve the people,” he has decided to let us, the people, decide.

The sad truth of the matter is that the word “compromise” is not in the governor’s vocabulary. As far as the “Gubinator” is concerned, his way is the right way (or as he says, “the will of the people”), and any lawmaker who thinks differently is wrong (or as he says, “the will of the special interests”). However, rather than sitting down with these lawmakers who oppose his policy to understand why they oppose it, and then trying to iron out a compromise that will best serve the people, the governor has decided to go over the heads of elected officials and straight to the people.

Last I checked, we elected the governor and the California Legislature to handle daily lawmaking business. Moreover, when we elected them, we expected they would not see eye-to-eye on everything, but we had faith in them to negotiate and compromise under the belief that whatever compromise they might reach would result in a policy that best serves the masses. Otherwise, what would be the point of electing “representatives?”

So, Gov. Schwarzenegger, with all due respect, and because I help pay your salary, stop acting like a child and do your job the way we expect you to do it.

Now to this, the governor might respond that I myself am not an authority on the matter, or perhaps even label me as a “special interest.” Therefore, I submit to you the thoughts of a few men who are certainly authorities on all matters of the Constitution and most certainly are not “special interests”: John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.

As they explained in the Federalist Papers, far more eloquently than I’m about to, the citizens of the United States would be far too wrapped up in their own affairs, and potentially not intelligent enough, to be entrusted with such an important responsibility as lawmaking. Therefore, it seemed in the best interest of the country to have a “representative democracy” in which those few exceptional people who know what they are doing can handle the daily lawmaking responsibilities. They went on to say that deadlock was to be expected, and that it’s a good thing, thus only allowing the important laws that benefit the majority to be passed.

Still not convinced? For the sake of being thorough, I conducted an informal survey. I asked a bunch of my classmates what their thoughts were on the issues of pensions, congressional redistricting, and merit-based teachers’ salaries. For the most part, my questions were received with a resounding “Huh?” an occasional “Who cares?” and a frequent “Teachers are definitely underpaid!”

If this unscientific sample is representative of the majority of California voters, as I believe it is, then it affirms my point that the governor should sit down with lawmakers, negotiate, and “lawmake” (yes, I know that’s not really a word). After all, that is what we elected them to do.

If none of the reasons that I’ve mentioned for not holding this special election were compelling to you, here is one that I think will be: The estimated cost of this proposed special election is between $50 and $70 million, paid for by you, the voter. So what do you think now?

Jeremy Ward is a graduate student studying political science.