California Democrats hitched their wagon to President Barack Obama's rising star this election season, a strategy that's paid off handsomely for the party.
State Democrats have won a supermajority in the legislature (at least 54 Assembly seats and 27 Senate seats), which means they can now reach the two-thirds majority vote needed to overcome filibusters and pass crucial tax revenue laws. It also empowers the party to overturn vetoes handed down by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Democratic leaders know full well what kind of opportunity this is. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has big plans for the supermajority, telling Reuters on Wednesday, "I think we're going to have the opportunity to really look at constitutional changes that improve governance in California - initiative reform, tax reform."
Assembly Speaker John Perez added, "Now we've got 54 people that I know are going to come together on Day One and work to further stabilize our economy."
Sacramento politicians have rarely been able to agree on a state budget that doesn't kick debt problems down the road. Since the 1978 passage of Prop 13, which capped property taxes and required new tax legislation to be approved by a two-thirds vote in the state legislature, the effort to raise much-needed revenue has often dissolved into partisan stalemates. Adding to the gridlock, many California Republicans have signed no-tax pledges -- essentially promises to their electorate that they would vote "no" on all legislation that includes a tax increase.
But the Democrats' newfound power isn't a blank check, warned Brown. In the past, the governor has promised to ask voters to approve any new tax hikes, as was the case with Tuesday's approval of Prop 30. "The desires will always outrun the available money,” Brown said during a press conference. “I always like to think with greater power comes greater responsibility.”
Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) echoed Brown's sentiment. While Huff has pledged to work with Democrats to help create jobs for Californians, reports the Visalia Times-Delta, he similarly noted that the majority party now has a "tremendous responsibility."
Complicating matters, Democratic Senators Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) and Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) won seats in the U.S. Congress Tuesday, meaning special elections need to be scheduled to replace them in the California Senate. If their replacements come from the lower house, a new round of special elections would need to be held to replace those Assembly members.
Negrete McLeod's district is registered as 48 percent Democratic and 26 percent Republican, while the one Vargas will vacate is 47 percent Democratic and 24 percent Republican, notes the Los Angeles Times.
If Democrats manage to come out on top in all the ensuing special elections, they'll retain their supermajority in both houses.
The last time a single party held a supermajority in both houses of the California legislature was in 1933, when the Republicans controlled the legislature. Democrats held a supermajority in both houses back in 1883.
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Prop 30: Gov. Jerry Brown's Tax Initiative (APPROVED)
Yes - 53.9% No - 46.1% <strong>YES vote: </strong> There will be an increase in state income taxes on the wealthy (those who make over $250,000) for seven years. Sales taxes will increase by ¼ cent for four years. Its passage will stave off $6 billion in automatic "trigger cuts" -- mainly to K-12 schools and state universities -- that Gov. Jerry Brown wrote into the 2012-2013 budget. <strong>NO vote: </strong> State income taxes and sales taxes are not increased, and California's education budget will be gutted in accordance with Brown's "trigger cut" budget. <em>California Gov. Jerry Brown joins students at a rally promoting Prop. 30 in the upcoming election in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. Prop 30 would raise taxes, directing the money toward education. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)</em>
Prop 31: Two-Year Budget Cycle (REJECTED)
Yes - 39.2% No - 60.8% <strong>YES vote: </strong> All bills will be made public at least three days before coming to a vote before the legislature, lengthen the state's budgeting cycle from one to two years, mandate the identification of funding sources for all new programs costing over $25 million and allow local governments to create "regional collaboration" bodies possessing the ability to supersede state laws. <strong>NO vote: </strong> There will be no change to the California legislature and governor's fiscal responsibilities.
Prop 32: Ban On Corporate & Union Contributions (REJECTED)
Yes - 43.9% No - 56.1% <strong>YES vote: </strong> Unions and corporations cannot use money automatically deducted from employee checks for political donations. <strong>NO vote: </strong> There will be no change to the laws that currently allow unions and corporations to use money automatically deducted from their employees' pay checks for political purposes.
Prop 33: Auto Insurance Histories (REJECTED)
Yes - 45.4% No - 54.6% <strong>YES vote: </strong> Auto insurance companies will take into account a customer's car insurance history, even if it spans different companies. <strong>NO vote: </strong> Auto insurance companies will continue to be prohibited from giving customers discounts based on their histories with other companies.
Prop 34: Repeal Of The Death Penalty (REJECTED)
Yes - 47.2% No - 52.8% <strong>YES vote: </strong> The death penalty will end in California. <strong>NO vote: </strong> California's death penalty sentence remains intact.
Prop 35: Human Trafficking Penalties (APPROVED)
Yes - 81.1% No - 18.9% <strong>YES vote: </strong> Prosecutors will be able to seek harsher penalties (fines and prison sentences) for convicted human traffickers. <strong>NO vote: </strong> The laws currently in place about sentencing convicted human traffickers will remain intact.
Prop 36: Alteration Of The 'Three Strikes' Law (APPROVED)
Yes - 68.6% No - 31.4% <strong>YES vote: </strong> Convicts with two prior convictions who commit a third, nonserious or non-violent crime will not be sentenced to life in prison. Those who are currently in jail with a life sentence for a nonserious or non-violent crime could be given shorter prison sentences. <strong>NO vote: </strong> California's "Three Strikes Law," in which felons could receive life imprisonment for their third conviction, remains intact. Those already in jail for their third felony will remain.
Prop 37: GMO Labeling (REJECTED)
Yes - 46.9% No - 53.1% <strong>YES vote: </strong> Companies will be required to put labels on all food with GMOs (genetically modified organisms). <strong>NO vote: </strong> Genetically engineered foods will continue to remain unlabeled.
Prop 38: Molly Munger's Tax Initiative (REJECTED)
Yes - 27.7% No - 72.3% <strong>YES vote: </strong> All Californians will have a higher rates of personal income taxes, the revenues of which get routed to local K-12 schools and early childhood programs. <strong>NO vote: </strong> Californians continue with their current personal state income tax rates. Schools get no extra money. <em>Molly Munger, a wealthy attorney and civil rights advocate, listens to a reporters question regarding her proposed ballot initiative to raise income taxes for school funding following her appearance at the California Parent Teacher Association's annual meeting in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)</em>
Prop 39: Income Tax Increases For Multistate Businesses (APPROVED)
Yes - 60.1% No - 39.9% <strong>YES vote: </strong> All businesses will be forced to calculate their taxes based exclusively on in-state sales. <strong>NO vote: </strong> Businesses will continue to choose whether to calculate their state taxes based on either the sales they make in the state or a combination of sales, property and employees in the state.
Prop 40: Referendum On State Senate Redistricting Plan (APPROVED)
Yes - 71.4% No - 28.6% <strong>YES vote: </strong> California will continue to use the new Senate district boundaries that were drawn and certified by the Citizens Redistricting Commission in 2011. <strong>NO vote: </strong> The California Supreme Court will appoint a special master to determine new state senate districts.