Democrats will have more sway in Sacramento after election,
but neither incumbent expects absolute power
By Mark Kellam
November 9, 2012 | 6:46 p.m.
With Democrats securing a supermajority in both state houses, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) and state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) may find it easier to push their agendas through to the governor’s desk, but they both said they don’t think the party will use the rare power carte blanche to approve tax increases.
Still, it doesn’t mean the lawmakers won’t have an easier time in Sacramento, especially in terms of pushing their respective legislative agendas.
Jerry Brown “That doesn’t mean the governor will sign them,” Liu said. “He’s pretty independent about being a Democrat, so to speak.”
Even so, with a supermajority, Democratic lawmakers can override Gov. Jerry Brown’s vetoes — a power that comes with great responsibility and expectations, Gatto said.
“Expectations can very quickly turn into disappointments,” he said.
Both lawmakers said Democrats need to focus on key issues such as tax reform, job creation and education.
Liu also said legislators should review the initiative process, something Gatto has stressed in the past.
She pointed to several propositions on Tuesday’s ballot that were funded by individuals and groups with deep pockets, but didn’t necessarily have the public’s best interest at heart.
But for all the hubbub over achieving the supermajority, Gatto said it’s a thin one, which will still have a dampening effect.
“The difference between 52 and 54 [seats] is not that great,” he said, referring to the number of Democrats in the Assembly last session compared to how many there are now.
For starters, Gatto, who is the new chairman of the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee, said he doesn’t think the two-thirds majority will necessarily translate into the same majority on the committee, which handles all legislation involving state funds.
And while lawmakers have clashed in the past when voting on a state budget, Liu said they didn’t squabble as much last year. That’s a trend she expects to continue with a supermajority.
“It’s much more fun for the news folks to bicker and show off,” she said. But “it’s less about show and more about product.”
The benefits of a two-thirds majority will likely come into play most often with procedural issues, Gatto said. For example, if a bill introduced by a Democratic legislator doesn’t meet a deadline as it winds through the Legislature, it may be waived through via the supermajority.
And both legislators reiterated pledges issued during the week among their Democratic colleagues that attempts at bipartisanship would not be abandoned — even if they hold the upper hand.
“[Republicans] still need to be brought in and be part of the solution,” Liu said.
“Within reason, there’s no monopoly on good ideas,” Gatto said. “Good ideas can come from any source.”