Dear Kevin de León,

Your heart isn’t in the legislature, is it?

I don’t know if it’s your next job that’s preoccupying you. Or whether you’re in mourning about Hillary losing (you were talked up as a candidate for EPA administrator) or about Trump winning, which means having to spend your time fighting off all his bigotry and nonsense. Or maybe you just hate dealing with those moderate Democrats. Or perhaps you just want to go off and make more money and worry about climate change.

But it’s becoming apparent your focus is not where it should be: on the massive opportunity you now have to address California’s considerable structural problems.

Your party just won supermajorities in both houses of the legislature. But you didn’t bother to come up with an agenda during the election for such supermajorities to pursue. And since the election, you haven’t rectified that error. Instead, you’ve been suggesting there’s not much to do with the supermajorities: “The two-thirds supermajority is a false holy grail,” you said.

That of course is not true. This is a state that requires a two-third vote to raise taxes – and to alter pretty much everything else in the budget. The education funding formula is tied to a supermajority; so are many other funding questions for state programs and local aid.

And most significantly, the legislature can put constitutional amendments on the ballot with a two-thirds vote. Heck, you can even ask the voters to declare a constitutional convention with two thirds (And you should—our constitution is broken, and hasn’t been reframed since 1879).

You’re willing to live under a broken system, all the limitations that imposes on California. Perhaps you’ve grown accustomed to the broken system that elevated you. But our state – with all its many problems, including a criminally high poverty rate – deserves better than this status quo. To tackle our fundamental problems – from lack of education support to healthcare access to the prisons to water—those supermajorities need to be used. Heck, two thirds give you the opportunity to do a tax reform that would be better for the California economy and provide more and more reliable funding for vital programs.

If you’re not feeling up to it, that’s fine. But you need to resign your leadership and get out of the way, so a leader who understands the opportunities of this moment can replace you.


Joe Mathews