The Washington Post

A California businessman wants to make the state legislature 100 times larger

The state Christmas tree outside California’s Capitol building. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

A San Diego businessman is campaigning to expand California’s 120-member legislature to the size of a small town.

John Cox’s Rescue California was approved Thursday to circulate petitions for a ballot measure that would expand the state’s Assembly and Senate to a total of 12,000 members. Assembly members would represent 5,000 people and senators would represent 10,000 people. State senators in California currently represent roughly 950,000 people, meaning they and counterparts in Texas have larger districts than members of the U.S. House. Roughly 475,000 people live in each California House district.

The group says its proposal targets special interests.

“One of my favorite expressions is we don’t elect policy leaders in the legislature, we elect professional fundraisers,” Cox, 56, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. Cox was also once president of the Cook County Republican Party in Illinois and the first Republican to formally seek the party’s 2008 nomination for president of the United States, according to NBC’s San Diego affiliate.

The proposal to expand California’s legislature may seem like it would make representation unrealistically local, but there are members in other states with fewer residents. In New Hampshire, the state with the largest legislative body, each House member represents about 3,300 people. In Vermont, each district houses roughly 4,175 residents. In no state, however, do members of the upper chamber represent fewer than 10,000 residents, as is proposed under the plan. Senators in North Dakota represent roughly 14,890 residents, the fewest of any state upper chamber.

Under the proposal, every hundred legislators would elect one among them to represent their interests in the state capital— thus maintaining a 120-member body in Sacramento. To qualify the measure for the ballot, the group will have to collect 807,615 signatures from registered voters by May 19.

Total legislators by state

Senators by state

House members by state

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.



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