Some may say I’m cynical of politicians’ behavior and motives. I plead Guilty, without remorse or compunction. I believe seeking elected office should be motivated by a desire to serve the electorate, not for selfish attainment of power and privilege. However the garnering and subsequent abuse of power and privilege is so tempting and profitable that some office holders cannot resist. After all, they are only human. In recognition of the human fallibility of future legislators, the framers of California’s Constitution included Article 4, Section 5 (a)

Each house shall judge the qualifications and elections (i.e. choices, behavior) of its Members and, by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two thirds of the membership concurring, may expel a Member. Expulsion is the only constitutional, and most appropriate, penalty for crooks and criminals holding a legislative seat.

The constitution goes on to require that when a Member is expelled the Attorney General shall immediately hold a special election in that Members district to replace the expelled Member.

An example of the basis of my cynicism is the inclusion of Proposition 50 on the June Primary ballot. Prop 50 changes the constitution to codify and legitimize suspension. Suspension is not, nor is it intended to be, a penalty for dirty legislators. It is simply a fraud being perpetrated on the voters of California. It is being sold under the widely held and reasonable concept that if a person is suspended their pay should stop.

We’ll never be privy to the machinations and back room deals in the CA Senate. But the events and facts speak for themselves. So gather round and I’ll tell you the story of how suspension came to be a Senate Constitutional Amendment.

In January 2014, the President Pro Tem of the Senate was riding high. He had a super majority and could pass any state law he wanted. Conversely, if he didn’t like a proposal, it was dead. Then one of his Members was convicted of a felony. He should have been expelled and a replacement elected. But the President Pro Tem stalled so he wouldn’t lose his super majority. He said we can’t take any action until all of the felon’s appeals have been heard. By then the legislative session will be long expired. But alas, over the next two months two more of his party members were indicted on unrelated federal charges. The media finally caught on to the stalling tactics, the cry for action became deafening and the Pres had to do something. But the most important thing was not to get the crooks out of the Senate. The most pressing problem was how to look like he was doing something without really doing anything. So the President Pro Tem of the Senate “invented” suspension. Well, not really. He stole the idea from New Jersey, another state with a squeaky clean legislature.

So what is suspension? It’s a time-out. You’ve been a bad boy. Go sit in the corner. You don’t get to vote on anything and you don’t get to use the stuff that comes with your office, like postal franking. You don’t get to go on “fact-finding missions” to the Amalfi coast. But you get to keep your seat and prevent the AG from holding a special election in your district to replace you. When is the suspension over? Whenever the President Pro Tem says it’s over, probably when the smoke clears and the media go away. Or your term expires.

What some people have not realized is that California has an estimated current population just fewer than 40 million people and a total of 40 Senators. If a Senator is suspended a million people lose their representation in state government. Just to show how deeply our politicians believe in the representative form of government, the final legislative vote on this measure was Senate: Ayes 31 / Noes 3 and in the Assembly: Ayes 73 / Noes 2. Do these totals mean the overwhelming majority of our representatives think that suspension is good for the people of California and enhances the integrity of the legislature? No, it just means they would rather be suspended when they get caught instead of being expelled.

Another falsehood circulating is that expulsion is obsolete and ineffective. After all, no one has been expelled from Sacramento since 1905 when four Senators were caught taking bribes and promptly expelled as the constitution requires. So, should we presume that no legislators have committed acts worthy of expulsion in the last 111 years? No. Several have, the last as recent as 1992. But each bad actor over those 111 years was offered a choice; resign or be expelled. And in each case they chose the former.

Expulsion is the correct and just action to both deter and remedy criminal behavior by legislators. Suspension is a self-serving scam. I urge you to vote No on Proposition 50 on June 7th.