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Paging Earl Long*


“FBI Presence Shadows Legislature’s New Session” is one hell of a headline. Particularly if you don’t live in Louisiana.
The LATimes, God love ‘em, is finally taking notice of the legal woes – and possibly the pending indictments of – Sen. Don Perata, recently elected Senate Majority Leader, and Secretary of State Kevin Shelly. Both have legal problems which, taken together, spell high-profile political vulnerability for the party that runs the state Assembly.

That’s good news for Gov. Terminator of course. All the bad-guy-slayer-in-chief has to do is stand there and say “Hasta La Vista, Baby.” If you were upset about “girlie mahn” and kicking nurses’ asses, you better brace yourself.
There’s a serious change in the works, here. Don’t be fooled. State-wide term limits which are pushing experienced guys like former Sen. John Burton out of office (mostly because of age) haven’t really done what they’re supposed to do. Instead sending new ideas to Sacramento, term limits have, instead, created a silly game of musical chairs that keep pols – Willie Brown from the Assembly to San Francisco mayor, Shelly from Assembly to Secretary of State, Sen. Carol Migden from the Board of Assessment to the Senate – moving from one job to the next in an orderly fashion.
To run for office in this state – particularly in the larger media markets, you need fundraising and other support. It helps, of course, if you’re already in office. And if you’re a Democrat in California, the money and get-out-the-vote effort comes from the unions. And if you’re doing business with the unions, the price is high. How do you think the state school and prison systems got where they are today? Unions are only part of the problem. Lousy oversight on the part of the legislature – they’re only there for eight years before they move on to their next gig — is another. So, please, let’s not leave out the recent audit of CalTrans’ management of the San Francisco Bay Bridge seismic retrofit. The auditors are laying it all on the state agency but, hey, they’ve got bosses, you know. And guess where they work? That’s right. The statehouse.
In his state-of-the-state message, look for Schwarzenegger to make a few of these points, particularly schools and how legislators are elected. Gov. Terminator doesn’t, of course, have to talk about the FBI. The papers are already doing that for him. All he has to do is repeat his campaign theme about cleaning house. “There’s no question it’s a reform theme,” his spokesman told the Sacramento Bee.
FOOTNOTE: Wanna know why folks like me think term limits are a dumb idea? Read TheBee’s obit for Rep. Robert Matsui who died yesterday. Term limits make pols focus on the glitz of getting elected, not on the work of staying in office.
*Former Louisiana Governor Earl Long was Sen. Huey Long’s brother. His best-known quote: “When I die, if I die, I want to be buried in the great state of Louisiana so I can continue to vote the Democratic ticket.”

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