Now and then you find a politician who touts not honesty as the best policy but prefers no ethical policy at all.
Proposition 112 would fill the void with policies oriented toward ethical behavior for California's 120 legislators and 23 elected administrators, including the governor. Its legal standards would operate in those cases where the private standards of elected officials were not sufficiently stout to steer them away from temptation. We recommend a Yes vote.
Proposition 112, whose only visible opponents are three members of the Legislature itself, would start out by making it illegal for the officials to accept honorariums. This is a fancy word for money paid to public officials for making speeches or for showing up at private receptions or in other ways putting themselves in the debt of those writing the check.
Many legislators contend that if their honorariums were taken away, they are entitled to income in some other form.
The proposition does not include a direct quid pro quo, but it should make it easier for legislators and others to get pay raises. As of now, legislators must raise their own salaries by voting to do so in public, knowing that voter reaction will be somewhere between frowns and fury.
The proposition would create a seven-member citizens' commission--with three public members, two business and two labor union representatives to establish proper salaries and fringe benefits.
Just how seriously the state needs such a code of ethics is evident from the fact that of what Proposition 112 prohibits now is permissible and actually happens.
Legislators determine the budgets for state agencies and can otherwise hardly be considered irrelevant to the careers of people in those agencies. Yet legislators turned lobbyists have been known to turn up later at such agencies arguing cases for clients. That would stop.
Proposition 112 cannot, by itself, guarantee that all state officials will act in an ethical manner. As the Scots say, "A thread will tie an honest man better than a rope will do a rogue," and the code is somewhere between rope and thread. But it will help and should be roundly approved by voters.
The ethics initiative would apply to 120 state legislators and 23 elected Sacramento administrators.
1. No more honorariums
2. No lobbying state boards or agencies
3. Salaries set by an appointed commission