Proposition 50: Suspension of Legislators


The Question: 
Should the state Constitution be amended to authorize the Legislature to suspend its members, with or without salary and benefits?
The Situation: 

The state Legislature consists of two houses: the Senate and the Assembly. The state Constitution provides that each house of the Legislature may expel one of its members who is accused of wrongdoing by a 2/3 vote of that house’s membership. The Constitution does not provide for suspension; however, each house of the Legislature may, by majority vote, suspend one of its members. In 2014, three Senators were accused of felonies, and the Senate voted to suspend them. Under this suspension, they were not allowed to vote on bills or take other legislative actions, but continued to receive their salaries and benefits while suspended, because there was no mechanism to prevent this.

The Proposal: 

The Constitution would be amended to authorize the suspension of a member of a house of the Legislature, with or without salary and benefits, by a 2/3 vote of the members of that house. The reasons for the suspension and rules for when the suspension would end would have to be set forth. The rules would require that either the suspension end on a specific date, or that a vote be taken in the future to end it.

Fiscal Effect: 

Because suspension of legislators is so rare, in most years Prop. 50 would have no effect on state or local finances. In the event of any future suspension, there could be minor savings to the state.

What a YES or NO Vote Means
A YES Vote Means: 

A YES vote on this measure means: The State Constitution would be amended to require a two-thirds vote of the Senate or Assembly in order to suspend a state legislator. The Senate or Assembly could eliminate that legislator’s salary and benefits during the suspension.

A NO Vote Means: 

A NO vote on this measure means: the Senate or Assembly could still suspend a legislator with a majority vote. The suspended legislator, however, would continure to receive a state salary and benefits.

Support & Opposition
Supporters Say: 
  • There should be a mechanism short of expulsion for suspending members without pay who have been accused of wrongdoing. 
  • Prop. 50 sets a high bar to prevent lawmakers from unjustly punishing each other.
Opponents Say: 
  • Expulsion is the correct punishment for members accused of wrongdoing. Suspending a member leaves his or her constituents without representation.
  • Under Proposition 50, members of the Legislature could vote to suspend a member who supports unpopular issues.