RANCHO SANTA FE — Seventy three percent of California voters say the state Legislature is doing a “poor or only fair job.”
That’s according to two recent statewide polls conducted by Wenzel Strategies.
Those polls were paid for and commissioned by the Neighborhood Legislature Reform Act, a group led by Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox.
But high disapproval figures can be seen in other polls, too. In a September poll from the Public Policy Institute of California this year, 53 percent of registered voters expressed disapproval with the state Legislature.
Last week, Cox, an attorney, CPA and investment adviser introduced the National Legislator Reform Act initiative, with the aim of putting it on the November 2014 ballot.
The Neighborhood Legislature looks to rid the state of the special interests they claim are running the government. Their proposal is to take the money out of politics and turn the state’s current 80 Assembly districts into 100 neighborhood districts that would be run by “citizen legislators.”
The plan would involve a heavy reliance on technology instead of sending the 4,000 “citizen legislators” to Sacramento.
Much of the inspiration for the Neighborhood Legislature stems from the New Hampshire State Assembly model.
Cox, a former GOP presidential candidate, said this change would never happen as the result of a state Legislature action.
“The state Legislature is not going to vote to reduce their own power. Clearly, the Neighborhood Legislature is going to reduce the power of the current legislature,” Cox said.
He said he’s talked to some state legislators already, mostly on the Republican side, who have said they like the idea. Cox was quick to add it’s because they have no choice. “They’re out of power; they’re in the minority.”
Cox added that he’s tried talking to some Democrats, but that they weren’t interested in talking with him. “They’re in control; they’re in power.”
Most of those in politics that favor the move come from San Diego progressives that Cox has been talking to.
Cox said that if this were to happen this would be an, “unprecedented transfer of power.”
But Cox said the state’s Attorney General accepting the initiative doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point.
“Anybody can do that,” he said.
What Cox is proud of is that the group now has 14 paid staff employees on the ground across the state working to increase awareness for the reform act.
What the group is doing now is seeking to establish a base of support. Their goal by the end of the year, Cox said, is to have 10,000 to 12,000 people sign a list, saying they are interested in becoming a “citizen legislator.”
The list they have so far is at 4,000 people, Cox said.
“Every speech we give, we pick up about 10 or 15 people,” he said. Between now and the end of the year, Cox said the Neighborhood Legislature has 25 speeches already set up.
The group tends to speak to community groups, including Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs and others.
And what are some of the objections people raise?
Cox said that he hears from people all the time people asking how they’re going to get this done when the people who are in power have a lot of money.
His answer to them: once the Neighborhood Legislature has a wave of 10,000 to 12,000 people coming at them, politicians can spend money until the cows come home.
“The reason this will win is because people will respond when somebody from their neighborhood comes knocking on their door.”
Awareness remains the group’s priority now. If people are just learning about it at the polling place in November, they’ll lose, he said.