Legislative Staffing

“When I was first elected in 1960, a legislator was entitled to a secretary in the Capitol and a secretary in their district office, and then, if you were a committee chairman or had other responsibilities, there was additional staff. But everybody was entitled to that staffing. 

“Well, then it got to be a second secretary in Sacramento, and then it got to be a second secretary in your district office, and then it got to be an administrative assistant. So they all increased the number of staff people working for them. 

“Now the Legislature’s gone overboard on the staffing routine. It was not (Assembly Speaker Jess) Unruh’s concept — and not that of those of us that supported him — that there would be this much staff in the Legislature.

“It was our concept that you’d have a professional staff person on the tax committee and on the water committee and on the agriculture committee and on the insurance committee and the other committees, and they wouldn’t necessarily change because of a change in speaker or a change in party or a change in committee chairman.

“But what’s happened is that those have been politicized to a great degree, although not entirely. There still are some professional people there that would serve regardless of who was in charge, but there’s far too many of them, too. It’s just gone overboard.”

                                     — Former GOP Assembly Speaker Bob Monagan, 1982


Filed under: Overheard


  1. One of our favorite former speakers, Bob Monagan, recognized the legislature was growing beyond the need of what Californians wanted. What I’m sure Bob never realized is that the legislature’s current budget is $224 million. For my money, that’s just too much government.

    Comment by Gus Turdlock — 1.12.2009 @ 2:09 pm

  2. The “Berman-McCarthy Wars” of the early 1980’s exacerbated the trend away from Unruh’s vision. Staff positions became rewards for loyalty. New staff positions, and staff changes based on personal or political agenda soon replaced the concept of professional staff rendering sound analysis and judgement. Now, Republican’s have “Minority Staff” on most committees whose analysis aren’t even made public–a good thing if you are a republican and might have to defend the diatribe. And many staff “consultants”, majority and minority, find their way to the roster by way of a campaign. Jess would stir in the grave.

    Comment by lotuslover — 1.12.2009 @ 6:47 pm

  3. Having worked in the building for many years as a committee consultant, I can attest to the fact that it’s nearly impossible to eke out a non-partisan professional and long-lasting career in that line of work nowadays.

    Before term limits had their full effect, there were occasional high-minded committee chairs and legislative leaders who focused committee attention exclusively to objective public policy analysis. And, public policy is still a criterion for committee work, at least nominally. But now, partisan and special interest concerns trump everything.

    Most young staffers now won’t ever be able to gain the legislative experience and subject matter expertise they need to be truly effective, as committee chairs are changed frequently, and new bosses often want new staff loyal to them.

    Comment by Anonymous — 1.13.2009 @ 7:16 am

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    I had forgotten the Berman- McCarthy wars although McCarthy made the same point about how staff jobs became plums during their speakership fight in his oral history.

    I’d feel better about the $224 million if there big signs like they have for highway projects that say “Your Tax Dollars At Work” in front of the dais in the Assembly and Senate.

    Comment by admin — 1.13.2009 @ 1:23 pm

  5. There are hard-working and long-suffering staffers in the building, still. But they are increasingly fewer and farther between.

    Comment by Anonymous — 1.13.2009 @ 11:18 pm

  6. lotuslover is right. Republicans have to “defend the diatribe” while the Democrats are pure of heart and mind with their concern only being to provide good government.


    Comment by NoOneInParticular — 1.14.2009 @ 8:53 am

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