New state legislation requires a kill switch on Smartphones, so they can be turned off when they’re lost or stolen. Not a bad idea, but why stop there?

California’s system of governance is broken in large part because it’s so inflexible. In other words, too many things are locked in and can’t be turned off.

So why not a kill switch for bills, and budgets and other tools of governance? Here’s a list of six things that could use their own kill switch.

  1. Pensions. It is next to impossible to take back public pension promises. Once you’ve made the offer, you owe. So why not a kill switch that would turn off pensions – freezing them – in certain financial conditions. And yes, I know that you’d need another kill switch to turn off the CalPERS board, which recently voted to undermine Gov. Brown’s effort to control pension spiking.
  2. Ballot initiatives. California initiatives are distinguished around the world because they are so hard to turn off. Make a law by initiative, and you’re stuck with it until there’s another vote of the people (unless the initiative permits or amendment, or you figure out some clever way to work around it). So why not require a kill switch on all initiatives, that allows them to be turned off by a simple majority of the legislature after a couple years. High-speed rail skeptics would like this – this might be one way to pull the project back, if the courts fail to do so.
  3. Budget formulas. Most famously, the Prop 98 education funding guarantee has served as a ceiling, rather than a floor for funding. Since its passage, school funding in California has declined relative to other states. So why not a kill switch to turn off formulas on schools and transportation and local government?
  4. CEQA. Right now, the way the state deals with CEQA’s excesses is to grant special exemptions to projects backed by the powerful. Instead of picking winners and losers (and currying political donations), it’d be better to have a kill switch that turns off CEQA after a certain amount of time. A time limit for resolving all issues under CEQA on a project.
  5. Subsidies for sports teams, entertainment, etc. Many communities, including those in California, have given big money to sports teams, only to regret it later. Why not a kill switch to give those regrets some legal force – by permitting at least partial refunding by sports teams of some of these investments?
  6. Columns and blog posts. Today’s media requires writers to publish all the time. And the more pieces you write, the more pieces miss. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a kill switch to shut down columns and posts that didn’t work?