an unanticipated consequence of
Jack M. Balkin
Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Abbe Gluck abbe.gluck at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Bernard Harcourt harcourt at uchicago.edu
Scott Horton shorto at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman msl46 at law.georgetown.edu
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at princeton.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
Richard Primus raprimus at umich.edu
K. Sabeel Rahmansabeel.rahman at brooklaw.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Neil Siegel siegel at law.duke.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
Should California Be Placed in Political Receivership?
A thought inspired by a story in today's L.A. Times in which the state legislature's chief budget analyst said California would be bankrupt with a $23 billion deficit by summer. California has had periodic budget crises for decades in part caused by the double whammy of a large fraction of the budget being locked up as a consequence of ballot propositions and a two thirds requirement for passing a budget. Both of these problems stem from California's dysfunctional constitutional system.
So how about a federal solution? Here's the part of the article I really liked: "The budget package that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law in February, averting an earlier cash crisis, was intended to keep the state solvent through June of next year. But the deterioration of the economy quickly knocked that spending plan out of balance. The analyst cautioned lawmakers against asking the federal government to help the state secure loans that might provide relief. In such a scenario, the federal government would guarantee lenders that it would repay them if California defaulted. The analyst said such provisions would be likely to have strings attached and could give the federal government too much authority over state affairs."
Too much authority? In such a situation, with the federal government guaranteeing tens of billions of dollars in California debt, why shouldn't the rest of us have a substantial say over how Californians run their government? Not to do so would simply encourage further mismanagement. Here's a simple summary of what we should require of California -- conform to the federal model. Anything in the state constitution relevant to the budget crisis that differs from the US Constitution would have to go. That means goodbye to the initiative (or at least the propositions passed using that flavor of direct democracy) and no two thirds requirement.
I think it would be difficult for Californians to argue that there is something wrong with imposing the federal model. It's done fairly well for the US over the years and, in fact, most state constitutions are based on it. So any interference with the values of federalism would be minimal. We can all appreciate the value of states as laboratories of democracy. But when the mad scientists decide to blow up the laboratory, we are not required to pay to rebuild it without setting conditions to make sure it doesn't happen again.