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Gaines shows interest in updating state's constitution

By: Eric Laughlin, The Press Tribune
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Roseville Assemblyman Ted Gaines (Rep.) told a group of voters this week that a proposal to amend the state's 130-year-old constitution could help fix the current budget crisis and ease gridlock at the Capital. The issue proved to be somewhat of a hot topic at a meet and greet session with the lawmaker in Downtown Roseville Wednesday morning. "If I did support it, it would be for government reform and not for taxation," Gaines told the group of a couple dozen residents. "After being a lawmaker for three years, I've come to question the governability of the state because of all the special interests." If enough signatures are gathered, Propositions 1 and 2 would be on this November's ballot and would, through a constitutional convention, pave the way for limited citizen-approved amendments with regard to government spending and effectiveness. "Right now about 60 percent of the budget is mandated by voter-approved initiatives," Gaines told the audience. "There's basically no getting around set spending requirements for things like education and stem cell research. With the convention, approval for that kind of spending would have to go back to the people." He said the convention could lead to the state not issuing bonds for areas deemed not as important during the current budget crunch. He specifically targeted last year's voter-approved high-speed train set to be constructed up and down the state. "I think that project's going to cost 10 times more than what voters approved," he said. "It was approved for $10 billion, but I think it'll be more like $100 or $200 billion. The project would have been better off privately funded." Roseville City Councilman Jim Gray applauded Gaines' stance on the constitutional convention. "The state has gotten to the point where it's ungovernable and financially out of whack," he said. "We've got to do something to get back in balance." But resident George Hudson wasn't so sure about the idea of changing a constitution that's been untouched since 1879. "I'm worried about what kind of government we'll get if we do this with liberals in control," he said. Gaines responded that the proposal would crack down on special interests that repeatedly make it difficult for legislators to get anything done. Propositions 1 and 2 are being spearheaded by a coalition known as Repair California, which rolled out its proposal this past October. The group is still gathering signatures. In addition to the discussion about a possible convention, Gaines addressed is-sues of health care and illegal immigration at the breakfast meeting held at Basic Urban Kitchen and Bar. "I opposed a California health care bill two years ago because I knew it was going to drive up costs and decrease accountability for illegals in the state," he said. "We shouldn't be paying for it every time they end up in the emergency room." He estimated that the state's prison system alone currently houses somewhere between 17,000 and 30,000 illegal immigrants. "That's partly why I carried legislation asking the federal government to reimburse us for some of those costs," he added. On federal universal health care, Gaines said "I'm not convinced that you should be forced to buy it and I don't know how they would enforce it." Before leaving the Roseville meeting to attend the Governor’s State of the State address, Gaines also expressed optimism in a voter-approved redrawing of legislative districts (by an independent commission), set for 2012, claiming that it will help get things done at the Capital.