Why Isn’t This Man California’s Next Governor?

When he gets up a decent head of rhetoric steam, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer is remarkable to behold.

On October 22, in approximately 15 minutes of testimony before the Senate and Assembly select committees on Improving State Government, the former Attorney General and Senate president pro tempore said he was “Aristotelian” a “First Amendment purist,” informed the committee that “politics is theater for ugly people” and two-thirds of the bills passed by the Assembly are “junk.”

The select committees are considering ways to improve the legislative process. The San Leandro Democrat was to be part of a panel focused on “Pressing Issues, Bipartisanship, Oversight and Strengthening Integrity of the Legislative Process.”

However, Mike Feuer, a Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Assembly committee, said Lockyer’s schedule didn’t allow and so he would speak on his own.

The committee had trouble stopping him.

A key part of the problem with the government, Lockyer said, is that it is designed not to work.

“Three branches, two houses, checks and balances. Nothing will happen and people will be left alone,” he said, in paraphrasing the thinking of the Founding Fathers.

Shortly after they arrive, legislators should meet with committee staff to educate themselves on policy, Lockyer said.

Legislative oversight?

“We all talk about it but it rarely happens.”

On the differences between the executive branch and the Legislature:

“You’re paid for results, not having an opinion.”

Legislators ought to “look at something.” If carrying a bill about the Employment Development Department, a lawmaker should visit the department and talk to long-time employees. Not the director of the department, Lockyer said, because they’ll “just whine about their budget.”

In wanting to gather such empirical information, Lockyer said he was “very Aristotelian.”

Sen. Mark Wyland, an Escondido Republican, said sitting legislators simply didn’t have enough time to go and personally visit the entities their policy affects.

“You got to make it,” Lockyer said.

Lockyer admitted to having difficulty embracing limits on the amount of legislation that can be introduced because he said he is a “First Amendment purist.”

However, perhaps “graduated” bill limits would be sensible, Lockyer allowed.

“Don’t let the first termers introduce more than five bills,” Lockyer said facetiously. The committee, at least, appeared to believe he was joking.

He urged lawmakers to stop passing “junk,” telling them “Nancy Reagan’s right: Just say “no.’ “

To Democrats, Lockyer said, “In an era where we’re not going to have tax increases, give it up.”

When putting together a budget “truncate the subcommittees that don’t do anything except rubber-stamp the special interests that come before them.”

That, Lockyer said, would “get the real work started sooner.”

He urged that policy committees be more active in crafting trailer bills accompanying the budget because it’s “not fair to have people work hard in policy committee and then have it changed at the last minute.” 

Feuer asked how Lockyer specifically would reduce the volume of legislation by, say, 30 percent to 40 percent.

Allowing as to the difficulty of doing so, Lockyer said:

 “Bills are my babies. I love every one of them. I don’t want them aborted or anything else.”

Realizing what he just said: “Sorry to get in the middle of another philosophical dispute.”

He described Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $15 billion of Economic Recovery Bonds as a “bad idea” because the state is using long-term bonds to pay current bills.

“Please don’t do it anymore,” Lockyer said, before stressing how delays in enacting budgets drive up the state’s borrowing costs.

Lockyer volunteered that “it’s impossible for the Legislature to reform the pension system and, if we don’t, it bankrupts the state.”

The reason?

Lockyer didn’t say specifically but attributed it to who elected the lawmakers, which, at least for Democrats, are largely campaign contributions from public employee unions.

In response to a question about the negative impact of term limits, Lockyer suggested replacing the current process of electing legislators with picking 120 people by lottery and giving them eight year terms after which they would be forever banished from state elected office.

How can lawmakers reform the process? Lockyer was asked.

“You can pass almost anything if you add sufficient punishment for the Legislature.”

Lockyer noted that his favorite place to visit is not the state Capitol. 

“I try and stay out of this building. It feels so irrational when I come over here.”

And, as to why California continues to be plagued by a spate of problems:

“Big problems don’t get solved because they’re kind of unsolvable.”

Bruised legislative egos were the only reported injuries.

Prior to Lockyer’s testimony, Feuer asked another speaker in the midst of detailing his views on government reform to wrap up, in the interest of time. 

The hearing on reform began 15 minutes after its scheduled start.

Catch Lockyer’s performance on the re-run of the Joint Legislative Hearing on Legislative Reform on the California Channel.



Filed under: Governor


  1. Can’t say I always agreed with Bill, but today he makes a lot of sense.

    Comment by Dennis Loper — 10.22.2009 @ 4:30 pm

  2. My favorite line from Lockyer was, ““politics is theater for ugly people.” Bill was in rare form today and I agreed with almost everything he said.

    Comment by Karen Keeslar — 10.22.2009 @ 5:21 pm

  3. Perhaps it isn’t recognized yet, but Bill Lockyer is one of the giants of this era of elected officials. I had the pleasure of serving with him in the Legislature and living with him, which was a hoot and nothing more need be said about that.

    There were those who doubted his ability to keep his mercurial personality in check when he became President Pro Tem of the Senate. I knew him well and had no doubt. All the nay sayers were proven wrong when Bill used his gifted mind and unmatched political skills to become one of our most effective Pro Tems.

    Those of little faith doubted Bill’s ability to do the job as Treasurer. Some thought it was just a stopping off point before higher office. Again, he proved them wrong. He attacked the job as Treasurer with the same boundless enthusiasm that he served the people of California so well during his public career. There are not stopping off points for Bill. He doesn’t know how to do a job halfway.

    The truth is that Bill sees things at a glance that most of us can’t see with a microscope.

    Bill would be a great Governor. Who knows he may still get his chance.

    Comment by Bruce — 10.22.2009 @ 6:49 pm

  4. A true leader! HE should be our next Governor. Look at all the great things Bill Lockyer did while at the Department of Justice. Jerry Brown is a laughable candidate by comparison.

    Comment by Mark — 10.22.2009 @ 9:16 pm

  5. Starstruck??!??? Not you my irreverent, jaded friend.

    Comment by Normal — 10.23.2009 @ 7:19 am

  6. Lockyer is the most underutilized person in government. I don’t know if in this blow-dried era he can be governor but whomever gets the job should give Lockyer broad oversight to reform CA government. Probably take him 20 minutes to come up the needed fix.

    Comment by Joe Camicia — 10.23.2009 @ 7:58 am

  7. “Why Isn’t This Man California’s Next Governor?” Exactly what I have been asking everyone I know for the past 2 years, and the only theory anyone has come up with is that he’s getting old, recently remarried, with a young child, and is ready to wrap up his career and focus on family.

    Greg, you started off your article with this question, so what is the answer?

    Comment by Mikeola — 10.23.2009 @ 8:30 am

  8. Is Bill so smart or just the only person with experience left in Sacramento after term limits. You might not have liked Willie and some of his friends and or enemies but at least they could be counted on to know a little about what they were talking about. They also understood that to help the poor we needed a strong business climate. Our current folks are in a rush to ensure their next elected position. They are too busy to stop and learn the effects of their great ideas on the state as a whole. Drive business from the state by over regulating and there are no jobs or money (taxes) for those poor people you said you were elected to protect.

    Comment by Management Slug — 10.23.2009 @ 9:05 am

  9. Bravo, BRAVO, B R A V O!!!

    Comment by Sandy Carey — 10.23.2009 @ 4:19 pm

  10. He is not a role model for our children…married twice?! second time due to a child born out of wedlock and she….is well…tooooo young for him.

    Comment by lockyearisboo — 10.23.2009 @ 8:18 pm

  11. I am another person who is very disappointed that Bill Lockyer is not running for Governor. Democrats need an alternative to Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom. Anyone BUT those two!!

    As to the person above (lockyearisboo) get a life, stope being so judgmental. 50% of marriages end in divorce. A lot of those divorcees end up getting remarried. And who cares how old she is?

    Comment by Jack — 10.24.2009 @ 11:45 pm

  12. I would vote for him in a heartbeat. Head and shoulders above the rest. It would be SOOO nice to have a Governor who actually knew something about state government. I fear the electorate will choose another on-the-job-training Governor again.

    Comment by SugarMuffin — 10.26.2009 @ 10:09 am

  13. Governor in deed! This is exactly the kind of leadership “experience” needed at all levels in America right now —
    Right on point from a leadership perspective
    Right on point from a management perspective a
    Real tough work needs to get done to get this state hummin again -Real leaders are needed!
    Let’s don’t fool ourselves again!


    Comment by LKC — 10.31.2009 @ 5:22 pm

  14. I had the pleasure of serving with him in the Legislature and living with him, which was a hoot and nothing more need be said about that.

    Comment by ClubPenguinCheats — 6.02.2010 @ 5:11 pm

  15. I had the pleasure of serving with him in the Legislature and living with him, which was a hoot and nothing more need be said about that.

    Comment by tava tea — 8.18.2010 @ 3:44 am

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