Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Log-Rolling Season

Log rolling is a well-worn tradition among politicians whereby a bunch of things most folks don't particularly want are bundled together with something most folks do want, making it a take-it-or-leave-it package deal. The Senate GOP leadership tried to do just that with an arbitrary bundling of a minimum wage hike along with an estate tax cut, calculating that the Democratic desire to boost the minimum wage would overcome their lack of enthusiasm for giving a tax break to a tiny percentage of the wealthiest Americans. The cynical plan failed when the Dems called their bluff (although Majority Leader Frist is promising to bring it back again in September). As Senator Grassley (R-IA) said, "we bet on the wrong horses." Indeed. It's sadly illuminating to see which arrows the GOP are putting their wood behind.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Los Angeles City Council has been doing some log-rolling of its own. The City Charter currently includes term limits for the Council members (as well as for the citywide posts like City Attorney and Controller). The Council, egged on by the Chamber of Commerce, calculated that voters wouldn't go for a charter amendment to extend the council term limits from two terms to three, so they decided to "sweeten the pot" by adding a bunch of ethics reform measures to the proposal. Never mind that the term limit extension needs to be ratified by the voters, while the ethics reforms could be simply passed by the council without having to go to the ballot. Never mind that the City Attorney opined that the mixed-bag proposal is likely to be challenged in court for violating the "single subject" rule (a wise rule specifically targeting such log-rolling nonsense as this). Fortunately, they weren't quite so brazen as to attempt to put it on the ballot with a title touting "ethics reform" and saying nothing about "term limits" (though it was attempted). Very disappointing. I will of course be voting "no" on principle.

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