No political capital in Sacramento visit
My friend Frank, who has actually voted in three of the past 15 California primaries, suggested I pay a visit to Sacramento before continuing my assault on the Golden State’s Constitution. All I did was suggest state lawmakers go home, since they spent all of our money already.
Frank thinks his voting record qualifies him as some sort of political pundit. Last time I took his advice I wound up in boot camp, but I decided to get a firsthand glimpse of the state capital anyway, so the Ackerman family did the tour on Saturday.
As some of you know, I came here from Carson City. So I know a thing or two about capitals and how they should operate. And the first thing you learn about capitals is how to spell one. When referring to a specific state’s capital city, it’s “AL” at the end. When referring to the building where they do all the important paperwork for a particular state, it’s capitol with an “OL” on the end.
Most people don’t know that, hence businesses such as “Capitol Cleaners,” or “Jeff’s Big Capitol Doggie Diner,” which aren’t located anywhere near the actual Capitol Building and are just barely inside the city limits of the state capital.
Even Frank didn’t know that, and he voted in three of the past 15 California primaries. Smartie pants.
There wasn’t much happening at the Sacramento Capitol Building on Saturday when the Ackerman family pulled up out front, snagging a very nice front-row parking spot, I might add. There was a handful of people on the front steps with signs encouraging us to drink clean water and to sign a petition asking our lawmakers to provide it or else.
“I’m sorry,” I had to explain to the protesters. “The state ran out of money, and we’re from Nevada.” I didn’t have the heart to tell them that California is facing a $15 billion deficit and might have to do without water altogether.
The chief protester ignored us and continued to scream into her bullhorn, much to the delight of my 9-year-old son.
The front doors to the Capitol Building were locked, so the Ackerman family pressed our collective noses against the windows to see if anyone would let us in. In Carson City you can hang out with the governor at Dairy Queen on most weekends, so we thought perhaps Gov. Davis might have heard of us and let us in.
Not one to give up, my wife suggested we try the back door, so we headed around the side.
Bingo. A side door was open and a couple of armed guards said we could come in, provided we passed a metal detector test and had proper I.D. It turned out they were just starting a 3 p.m. tour, so we jumped in.
Our guide was from Russia and she said she’d been doing tours for many years. She was also very political, mixing her views in with historical anecdotes about the building.
Sitting in the gallery above the Assembly Floor, our guide suggested we vote to approve extending term limits from six years to 10. She didn’t know that the Ackerman family was still registered to vote in Nevada, or that we had suggested that California’s lawmakers be sent home immediately.
The tour guide argued that it takes years to learn how to be a legislator and that three two-year Assembly terms and two four-year Senate terms just don’t provide enough time. I found the bathroom in just 10 minutes, so it couldn’t be that tough to find your way around.
Just so you know, California lawmakers can only pass 3,000 laws per year, according to our guide. It used to be 4,000 laws, but they had 6,000 cases of carpal tunnel syndrome filed and cut back.
“These poor people work very, very hard for you,” said our tour guide. “They push a green light to vote yes and a red light to vote no. Imagine doing that 3,000 times a year.”
There was some Latin carved into the wall above the Senate Floor that translated to, “These Guys Will Never Pass A Bill To Limit Your Liberties,” or something like that.
“Do these guys read Latin?” I asked the tour guide, who asked if anyone had any questions.
“What do you mean?” she replied, still smiling.
“You know. Do they ever look up at those Latin words carved above their heads? Or are they too busy concentrating on the green and red light buttons on their desks?”
“This is a very big state,” she said, starting to wonder why she volunteered to work Saturday. “Almost half of the world’s surfboards are made right here in the Golden State.”
I hadn’t known that, but I made a note just so I could drop something on Frank that he probably didn’t know.
My son wanted to know more about the guy who drove his big-rig truck through the Capitol, causing $14 million in damage, but we were out of time.
Later that night I called Frank and told him we learned that the Assembly had 80 members, the Senate 40, and that there was a ballot measure asking voters to let them stay in office at least 10 years in order to really get the swing of things.
“I knew you’d see the light after visiting the place!” Frank almost shouted, pleased as punch with himself for suggesting the trip.
“Yeah,” I replied. “But I still think there ought to be a ‘Go Home’ clause attached in the event they spend all our money before their term is up.”
“That’s because you haven’t been back in California long enough to know better,” Frank lectured. “A lot has happened since you’ve been gone. Did you know that half of the world’s surfboards are now made right here in California?”
Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays.
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