Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on June 30, 2002

California Gov. Gray "Mussolini" Davis: Once power is given, it can be very difficult to reclaim -- and that's something that the California legislature is learning now. Today's Sacramento Bee reports that the California legislature, dominated by Democrats, is grumbling about Davis' continued energy-related "state of emergency."

Even though the Democratic governor insists that the state is still at risk of power blackouts and spiking energy costs, fellow lawmakers -- mostly Democrats -- are calling on him to end the emergency. A national taxpayers' group is threatening to sue.

They argue that Davis is upsetting the balance of power between the state's executive and legislative branches of government and is violating state law in the process.

"Emergency powers temporarily disrupt a constitutional balance of power between the governor's office and the Legislature, which is the house that more closely represents citizens," said state Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey, who is the author of a resolution that would end the state of emergency.

Only the governor or the Legislature, by concurrent resolution, can end a state of emergency.

"An emergency declaration basically makes the governor the supreme dictator while it's operative," she said.

Some Republicans, including Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga, have opposed the move to end the governor's declared state of emergency.

While this is not a partisan issue, it is a power issue. Davis and his aides insist that California is still suffering from a power crisis. Therefore there is a need for him to retain the extraordinary powers granted him under the state constitution.

I'm skeptical. Enron is kaput. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is, belatedly, breathing down down every energy-producer's neck. We know how companies gamed the system, and it's something that regulators will be aware of. Power generators, facing action by the FERC and the threat of a windfall profits tax will be extremely hesitant to work over Californians again.

But the truth is, Californians will no longer believe there can be a shortage -- Davis' own propaganda, up until this point, has told us all about how he has solved the power problem by taking over power contracts, buying power, rushing through authorization of new power plants.

FERC's energy price caps run through September -- covering the hottest, most energy-demanding months. The caps provide no incentive for energy producers to fake a shortage.

So, all things considered, why does Gov. Davis want to hold onto these powers? Well, like any chief executive, it's a whole lot easier to accomplish what you want when you don't have to worry about getting permission from a pesky legislature.

Unfortunately, Davis' convenience is no reason to circumvent our democratic system.


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June 2002



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