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Democrats reach 'supermajority' in California Legislature

November 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The political balance of power in California is firmly in Democratic hands after surprises at the polls gave Democrats control of both houses of the state legislature.

Experts credit the new political district lines drawn by a citizens commission in helping the Senate get to a "supermajority." In the Assembly, the new online voter registration system boosted Democrats.

In a stunning election surprise, California voters handed the Democratic Party supermajorities in both legislative houses. It's the state's first simultaneous "supermajority" since 1933. That means Democrats have the two-thirds majority vote necessary not only to raise taxes, but also override gubernatorial vetoes.

The new numbers worry Republicans, who now won't have much say in major policy.

"I think in a supermajority, they've got a lot of power," said state Senator Ted Gaines (R-Roseville). "And typically when you have too much power you can go awry."

Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) denies that raising taxes is on next session's agenda.

"I certainly don't intend to suggest to my colleagues that the first thing we do with our new powers is to go out and seek to raise more taxes," said Steinberg.

But at the same time, Steinberg also says it's time to bring back some programs that have suffered through billions of dollars in budget cuts over the years.

"But we will take the opportunity to fight for and restore some of the worst-of-the-worst cuts," said Steinberg.

Californians still have the executive branch to potentially block any tax measure the legislature might pass through.

Governor Brown says he'll make sure the legislature doesn't overindulge. He reminded people of a campaign promise he made.

Asked if he planned to use the supermajority to raise more taxes, Brown said, "No, I have already said the only way to raise a tax is to ask the people."

But the governor won't commit to a veto either.

Pressed if he would veto a tax that was passed, he said, "Well, we're not into the threat game here."

Gov. Brown wants to use supermajority powers to recalibrate business regulations and improve education. Steinberg wants tax and initiative reform.


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