[EM] California Dreamin', Take 2

Dr.Ernie Prabhakar drernie at radicalcentrism.org
Wed Aug 25 17:01:38 PDT 2004

Thanks to everyone, especially James.  Enclosed is a shorter and 
hopefully wiser proposal; I think the PR bit is in pretty good shape.  
Anyone want to comment on my suggestion for write/edit bicameralism?

-- Ernie P.

Reengineering California: Towards A 21st Century Legislature
Draft 2, 8/25/2004 Ernest Prabhakar <DrErnie at RadicalCentrism.org>

Despite Arnold's best efforts (which, frankly, are better than anyone 
else has done here for decades) California appears to be in the grip of 
a perpetual governance crisis.  The result is that at least one 
well-known columnist is calling for radical reforms, including 
proportional representation (PR).  So, I figured this is a good time to 
map out a structure for a legislature that reflects everything I've 
learned from this group.  If things go well, I hope to start shopping 
the idea around with other local reform groups (suggestions welcome!).

My vision is to have a bicameral legislature, with an PR 
(proportionally represented) lower-house (Assembly) to write bills and 
a Condorcet single-winner upper-house (Senate) to edit them.   The idea 
is that the Assembly would draft bills, but that amendments proposed by 
various factions would be separate items rather than in-place changes.  
  So, for example Bill 42 would have amendments A, B, C, and D attached. 
   This would take advantage of the energy, diversity and creativity of 
PR, and provide a low barrier-to-entry for factions to make their 
voices heard.

By contrast, the job of the Senate is to filter out the various ideas 
and find the optimal compromise.   Debate in the Senate would be 
focused on simply identifying the interesting set of options, e.g., i) 
42, ii) 42AB, iii) 42AD, iv) 42C. Again, it would be a low barrier 
(15%?) to nominate an option; they'd of course use Condorcet to vote 
amongst the options, so more choices wouldn't hurt.  In case of a 
cycle, the whole Smith set would go to the governor and he/she could 
pick one.

Crucially, though, the Senate would not be allowed to write new 
language.  This should eliminate a lot of the sleaziness (and time 
wasting) that currently goes on in conference committee, as well as 
make the Senate focused on legislative review (something California 
sorely lacks at the moment).  I'm toying with the idea of making the 
Senate term eight-years, with no re-election option, to diminish their 
need for campaign fundraising; the flip side is that I'd make them easy 
to recall, say by a white-ballot vote every two years.

For the Assembly, experts suggest we need around 300 representatives to 
maintain contact with the population.  The optimal district magnitude 
for PR is usually considered around seven (7), giving a 90% confidence 
that a voter would get a candidate they agree with.  This number could 
vary from 4 to 10, based on local geopolitical boundaries, giving 
roughly 43 districts.   These would thus be comparable in size to the, 
say, fifty (50) Senate districts (all of which would have equal 
population, of course).

Assembly members would be elected every two years using STV-PR based on 
individual candidates, with a 'quickfill' option for those wanting to 
vote an entire party line.   Senators would be elected to staggered 
eight-year terms using a Condorcet-compliant method, with a reasonable 
tiebreaker in case of cycles (e.g., Maximum Majority Voting).  As a 
bonus, the Four Color Theorem ensures that no two adjacent Senators 
would need to be elected at the same time (except in case of a recall).

As part of this effort, there would also need to be electoral reform 
for statewide offices (based on Condorcet), as well as lobbying reform 
(based on the idea of real-time transparency), but that is outside the 
scope of this paper.


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