California Needs Better Laws, Not More Government

Needless boards only add red tape, bureaucracy

What would the Vegas odds be on a “tough on crime” Republican governor vetoing a bill that is billed as stopping dangerous sex offenders from preying upon kids – a bill that passed the state legislature without a single “no” vote and is overwhelmingly supported by the victim’s rights community?

No one with any political instincts would take that parlay, but if you did, enjoy your early retirement.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just vetoed a bill to create a new Sex Offender Management Board that would recommend how to manage, treat, and track more than 100,000 registered sex offenders in California.

Vetoing the bill seems like political suicide. But in a year filled with high political drama, Schwarzenegger finally took the kind of independent action that Californians thought they were getting when they chose him in the recall election.

The Terminator hasn’t gone soft on crime; he’s vetoed the very type of legislation that has enabled our state government to spiral and grow out of control in recent years.

The Sex Offender Board bill shows first hand that when our state politicians identify a problem, they often aren’t out to actually solve the challenge. Instead, they prefer monument building – symbolic gestures to show they are serious.

In this case, a $1.5 million per year symbolic gesture – that’s what the legislature’s own fiscal estimates say the annual price tag of the Sex Offender Board could be.

“Until we take real action, the creation of just another government board may make some feel better but will not result in protecting our neighborhoods,” Schwarzenegger said in his strongly worded statement vetoing the Board. He correctly pointed out the bill wouldn’t help a single child or a single parent.

Instead of implementing tough on crime laws like Jessica’s Law, proposed by Sen. George Runner and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, most politicians want to hand out political appointments to their well-connected allies that will further weigh down the already deficit-riddled state budget. Californians don’t need more government, we need better government.

The California Performance Review, Schwarzenegger’s attempt to “blow up the boxes” of state government identified more than 320 unnecessary or duplicative boards, commissions, task forces, and other appointed bodies. In fact, the report could not even give a precise number of state boards or political appointees because there is no central inventory of these political bodies that oversee everything from boxing matches and hair salons to guide dog trainers and TV repair technicians.

For example, rather than having a single medical board in California that oversees medical practices, there are dozens of needless specialty boards – one for chiropractors, acupuncturists, hearing aid dispensers, occupational therapists and on and on. Each of these boards requires its own staff, overhead and other administrative costs.

The Performance Review proposed eliminating more than 100 boards, like the completely unnecessary California Athletic Commission that regulates boxing, even as every other sport is self-regulated.

Despite its merit, that bid seemed dead on arrival in the halls of state government, as was a separate Schwarzenegger-sponsored effort to eliminate 88 boards and commissions (including many that the Performance Review proposed keeping) that failed miserably earlier this year.

The wide range of special interests sitting on these boards called the reform efforts a —gubernatorial power grab’, when in fact they were the ones desperately clinging to pieces of power they’ve grabbed over the years.

With many pundits questioning Schwarzenegger’s chances in the looming special election, many proponents are clinging to the hope that the governor’s Sex Offender Board veto means the promises of a smaller, more efficient government made during the recall campaign may come to fruition after all. The question now is – should they take that bet? Here’s hoping they do.

George Passantino is a Senior Fellow with the Reason Foundation and served as a director on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s California Performance Review. In 1996, Passantino served as the legislative director of California’s version of Megan’s Law—Public Notification about Dangerous Sex Offenders.