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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 18th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 50

Neighborhood Legislature proposes a smaller governing system for California

BY AMY ASMAN

What would happen if state senators and Assembly members represented only 5,000 to 10,000 people instead of the typical 500,000 to 1 million?

John Cox, the head of Neighborhood Legislature, thinks it would “take the money out of politics” and give legislative power back to the people of California.

Cox visited Buellton earlier this year to talk about his effort to put a “Neighborhood Legislature” measure on the November 2014 ballot. The group started collecting signatures last December.

According to the group’s website, neighborhoodlegislature.com, the initiative would replace California’s current legislative system with more than 11,000 “small, community-based districts.” From these districts, voters would select 120 representatives to participate in Senate and Assembly “working groups,” which conduct hearings and other dealings in Sacramento.

“[Representatives] wouldn’t need to raise a lot of money because they wouldn’t be running TV ads, which are expensive,” Cox said. “They could easily make fliers … and walk door to door and meet all of their constituents.”

He told the Sun he got the idea for the initiative while traveling in New Hampshire, which he said has a similar “town hall” legislative system.

“I witnessed really good, qualified candidates running for the state Legislature,” he said. “Big Money doesn’t rule the state Legislature in New Hampshire. It’s all about town hall meetings and going door to door.”

He said, instead of career politicians, the people of New Hampshire are represented by retired lawyers, homemakers, college students, and small-business owners.

Cox envisions a similar system for California. He and his supporters have met with hundreds of political and community groups to ask for their support.

“The groups like the idea of getting money out of politics,” Cox said. “People don’t vote because they don’t think their vote matters because decisions are made by checkbooks in Sacramento. This initiative would change that.”

When asked to comment on the initiative, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) said, “It sounds great, but on the other hand, there will still be several issues.”

Achadjian said having smaller districts could actually create more special-interest groups because people would have better access to their representatives.

He said the amount of money spent on a campaign depends more on how competitive the district is than the population size. For example, Achadjian said he spent $500,000 the first time he ran for Assembly. The second time, he spent less than $50,000.

He credited the marked difference to “competition, reputation, and work ethic.”

“This is not an easy job,” said Achadjian, who expressed interest in meeting with Cox. “Even if you represent fewer people, your decision still impacts all of California, which has the eighth largest economy in the world.”