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Opposition campaign launched against part-time Legislature effort

September 17, 2009 | 11:02 am

It may not be on the ballot, but a grassroots push to punish the California Legislature by yanking it back to part-time status has earned a sure sign of respect in the state Capitol – a formal opposition campaign.

Californians for an Effective Legislature is being fronted by three retired lawmakers and led by Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio. Maviglio said the rationale for the effort is to “put out the brush fire before it begins.”

Boosters of the push for a part-time Legislature have only recently begun to gather the nearly 700,000 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for next year’s ballot.

That group, Citizens for California Reform, has received publicity on conservative talk radio and had signature gatherers at various anti-tax rallies. But so far, it has not received the sort of big financial backing – pegged at around $3 million these days – needed to mount a full-tilt campaign to qualify.

“No one has written a big fat check,” Maviglio noted.

But the effort has sent a chill through state lawmakers, particularly Democrats who believe the go-go Golden State isn’t a good candidate for part-time leaders.

“The seventh largest economy in the world, with a $131-billion budget, needs committed legislators, not amateurs who will have only 90 days a year on the job before they make decisions affecting millions of Californians,” said John Laird, one of three former legislators chairing the committee along with Democrat Dario Frommer and Republican Bob Naylor.

--Eric Bailey in Sacramento