The brighter mood in the state Capitol mirrors public attitudes, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.
The survey found that 44% of California adults believe that "things in California are generally going in the right direction" — the highest it has been since mid-2007. Two years ago, only 16% felt that way.
"It's because of the election and the economy," says the pollster, Mark Baldassare. "We are a blue state, and the election came out the way people voted.
"And folks are generally feeling more optimistic because of Prop. 30 passing. That takes pressure off the budget and schools."
The Legislature is even drawing less scorn. Among likely voters, 26% now approve of the lawmakers' job performance, and 61% disapprove. That's still pretty pathetic. But two years ago it was 9% approval and 82% disapproval.
Voters generally like Brown. He gets 49% approval, 40% disapproval.
The governor, who tries to hug the center, will relish keeping his fellow Democrats in check.
"We've got to make sure over the next few years that we pay our bills, we invest in the right programs, but we don't go on any spending binges," Brown told reporters after the election.
Binges are relative.
"His general disposition is to be pretty cautious," Steinberg told me. "On the other hand, he's not a governor who's afraid to take risks. I mean, high-speed rail was not exactly popular, and he went ahead with it."
Pressed by Brown, the Legislature in July authorized spending the initial $8 billion to begin laying bullet train tracks. The ultimate cost is projected at $68 billion.
Steinberg offered legislators a sound suggestion: Assuming that budget surpluses ever do develop, sock away one-third in a rainy-day fund, use one-third to pay down debt and spend one-third to restore previously cut programs for poor people and students.
And, by the way, he told reporters, closing tax loopholes is not really raising taxes.
Well, yes it is. But you get the idea.
Democrats will reach as far as they can without getting their knuckles smacked by voters.