California Seen as Example for How to Curb Partisanship

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from The New York Times,

Before Washington, California was the national symbol of partisan paralysis and government dysfunction.

This was the place where voter initiatives slashed the power of state lawmakers, runaway deficits and gridlocked budgets were the rule of the day, and a circus of a recall election forced a governor out of office 10 months after he took power.

But over the past month, California has been the stage for a series of celebrations of unlikely legislative success — a parade of bill signings that offered a contrast between the federal shutdown in Washington and an acrimony-free California legislature that enacted laws dealing with subjects including school financing, immigration, gun control and abortion.

The turnaround from just 10 years ago — striking in tone, productivity and, at least on fiscal issues, moderation — is certainly a lesson in the power of one-party rule. Democrats hold an overwhelming majority in the Assembly and Senate and the governor, Jerry Brown, is a Democrat. The Republican Party, which just three years ago held the governor’s seat and a feisty minority in both houses, has diminished to the point of near irrelevance.

“You see Republicans voting for immigration reform, you see Democrats voting for streamlining environmental regulations,” said Dan Schnur, the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “You never would have seen that before.”

Lawmakers came into office this year representing districts whose lines were drawn by a nonpartisan commission, rather than under the more calculating eye of political leaders. This is the first Legislature chosen under a nonpartisan election system where the top-two finishers in a primary run against each other, without party affiliations, an effort to prod candidates to appeal to a wider ideological swath of the electorate.

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