SACRAMENTO — Imagine California government under the control of Orange County's Republican legislators--the Democrats' worst nightmare and a fantasy come true for the county's eight Republican Assembly members and four state senators.
Long the conservative heart of a battered minority party, Orange County's GOP lawmakers traditionally have been unable to impose their view of the perfect world on the Legislature in any significant way.
But what if that changed and the views of the county's Republican legislators prevailed in both the Legislature and the governor's office? How would those views, translated into policy, change the lives of Californians?
In an attempt to answer that question, The Times reviewed legislation introduced by the county's Republican legislators in past years and questioned them at length about what they would do if they had power to change the state.
Not everyone agreed on every issue. But clear majorities emerged on many subjects. Here is a sample of how California might change if the county's Republican lawmakers were calling the shots:
Criminals would be among the first to feel the impact. They would find it tougher to stay out of prison as rules of evidence for criminal trials were loosened and the Legislature revoked many of the procedural advantages defense attorneys have won over the years.
Once in prison, the crooks would see that it was tougher to get out early. One consolation: There would be plenty of new prisons for them to call home.
Businesses and workers would feel the impact of the new era through a variety of state regulations that would be lifted or scaled back. The state's worker safety agency finally would be abolished, for example.
And employees in high-risk jobs would be required to submit to drug tests if their supervisors suspected usage.
Local governments would be forced to limit the fees they collect from developers to pay for the construction of schools, sewers, libraries and parks, and public agencies would be held more accountable for the way they spent the money they did collect.
Also, local governments would be put on notice that unreasonable limits on growth could have serious consequences, such as a reduction in state housing subsidy funds.
The Coastal Commission would be phased out, and its duties would be turned over to cities and counties. Rent control would be outlawed.
Freeway construction would reach an all-time high. More roads could be built, as all taxes on gasoline and motor vehicles would be shifted to a special fund that could be spent only on transportation.
Public toll roads, first tried in Orange County, would be built elsewhere in the state.
Welfare recipients' benefits would be scaled back to no more than the national average, and more of them would be required to participate in the state's workfare program. Sanctions for those who dropped out would be tougher.
Goals that today require state agencies to try to hire a certain number of women and minorities would be rescinded. Funds for family planning agencies that refer pregnant women to abortion clinics would be curtailed.
In the schools, students' clothing and lockers would be subject to searches if administrators thought they were using drugs. More children would attend private schools under an experimental program allowing their parents to choose a state-paid alternative to the public school system.
The Orange County legislators' view of the perfect world may be a dream in more ways than one.
The Republicans would need five seats in the Assembly and six in the state Senate to control the Legislature. And even if the GOP were in power, the Orange County delegation would have to compete within their party for control of the state's political agenda.
Disagree Among Themselves
Orange County's Republican lawmakers, in fact, disagree even among themselves on many of the specific steps needed to improve the lives of their constituents. But they are unanimous on certain broad themes.
They all say they want more individual freedom, less government regulation of business matters and more incentives for the private and public sector to excel. They believe the best welfare program is a strong, free-market economy.
It is criminal-justice issues that perhaps most often bring Orange County's Republicans into conflict with the Democratic majority in the Legislature. During 1987, for instance, only 10 of 66 crime-related bills introduced by members of the Orange County delegation became law.
Assemblyman Ross Johnson of La Habra alone introduced 21 such measures. One--strengthening restitution requirements--is now law. The other 20, many dealing with the death penalty, never made it past the Assembly Public Safety Committee. The same committee in one meeting last week shelved nine bills introduced by Orange County lawmakers.