California legislators getting things done

The California Legislature has achieved something I never expected to see again in my lifetime. Its public job approval rating has soared above 50%.

That’s astronomical compared with the lawmakers’ wretched ratings of a few years ago.

Of course, the latest polling was conducted before the Legislature raised gas taxes and vehicle registration fees by $5.2 billion a year.

“That’s not a good-news type of thing,” notes Mark DiCamillo, polling director of the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. “It’s the kind of thing that irritates voters.”

But the tax hike to pay for repairing California’s sorry roads was long overdue and showed guts, at least by the Democrats and one deal-making Republican who voted for it Thursday night.

Unlike the gridlocked, Republican-controlled Congress, the Democrat-dominated state Legislature exhibited an ability to pass significant, controversial legislation that required a supermajority vote.

“It’s the most important bill we’ll have before us this session,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) told colleagues during the floor debate.

DiCamillo’s UC poll, reported last week, found that 57% of California’s registered voters approve of the Legislature’s job performance, with 43% disapproving.

That’s almost up there in the Gov. Jerry Brown stratosphere. His numbers were 61% approval, 39% disapproval — the highest DiCamillo has recorded for Brown during his second gubernatorial reign.

For the Legislature, it’s the highest popularity rating found by DiCamillo since 1988. Its standing was down to 14% approval, 76% disapproval just seven years ago during the recession.

Another poll, by the Public Policy Institute of California, found numbers similar to UC Berkeley’s last month. It reported 51% job approval for the Legislature.

The poll results mirror current political polarization. In the UC survey, 77% of Democrats approved of the Legislature’s performance, as did 56% of independents. But 77% of Republicans disapproved.

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