Wednesday, July 23, 2003
A little late: But I predicted this.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said Thursday he plans to ask the California Supreme Court to ease the state's budget gridlock and free up money for schools by ruling that a simple majority of lawmakers can pass a spending plan.
The petition, expected to be filed early next week on behalf of the state's 6 million school children, was applauded by education groups who are urging a quick resolution over how to close the state's $38.2 billion shortfall. Critics of the suit decried the bid as a grandstanding maneuver to prod legislative leaders -- who will be defendants in the case -- to strike a budget deal soon.
``I cannot in good conscience stand by and watch political conflict disrupt the education of the children of California,'' said O'Connell, noting that the State Education Department is unable to dispense $628 million in school aid this month to fund everything from special education to transportation services. "It's important that we act quickly and decisively.''
O'Connell said he was emboldened to act by a recent Nevada high court decision that found Nevada's constitutional requirement that lawmakers pass a budget with a two-thirds vote should be set aside in favor of another mandate to adequately fund public education. California's constitution has similar requirements.
I interviewed O'Connell nearly a decade ago when he was running for yet another term in the state senate. He is the consummate politician -- I felt like I needed a shower after interviewing him. This is the sort of thing I would expect from him. He gets his name in the papers and he looks like a big-time mover in Sacramento.
Hopefully we'll find that the California Supreme Court has more respect for the law than their counterpart in Nevada.