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Proposal seeks to expand California Legislature from 120 to 12,000

SACRAMENTO -- John Cox, a San Diego County real estate mogul, hates the way the California Legislature operates, so he wants to make it bigger. Much bigger.

Cox heads the Rescue California Foundation, which on Thursday was cleared by the state to circulate petitions for a proposed ballot measure that would expand the Legislature from 120 members to 12,000 members, each elected from neighborhood legislative districts of 5,000 (for Assembly) to 10,000 (for Senate) residents.

Under his plan, 100 legislators would be elected in each of the current legislative districts and would send one representative from each district to Sacramento to participate in working groups to draft bills and hold hearings. Each piece of legislation would have to be approved by a vote of the 12,000 members.

“I got tired of seeing what’s going on in our politics,” said Cox, a resident of Rancho Santa Fe. “Frankly, politics is about selling to the highest bidder, on both sides.”

By having lawmakers elected from very small districts, the proposal could force candidates to spend more time going door-to-door seeking votes and less money on television ads and mailers, Cox said.

“We are converting campaigns for the Legislature from huge, mass-media efforts to little neighborhood efforts,” he said. “You are taking money out of political campaigns by doing this.”

By cutting the pay and expenses of the Legislature, the proposal would save the state $130 million annually.

The group has been pitching the idea to Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce and other community groups since April, and Cox said he has put $500,000 of his own money into the campaign. Still, the group faces an uphill struggle to obtain 807,615 signatures of registered voters by the deadline of May 19 to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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