On Tuesday June 7, 2016 California voters passed Proposition 50 with an unprecedented majority—77 percent of voters statewide approved the legislation.
Proposition 50 enshrined a constitutional amendment that gives California lawmakers enhanced authority to act against legislative peers considered unfit for the job.
State legislators pursued Proposition 50 in the wake of the 2014 suspensions of three state senators, Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright. At the time, all three lawmakers faced felony-related charges. Under existing law when a member is suspended, his/her peers are prohibited from making reductions in their pay. When legislators are under suspension they cannot vote on bills nor take any legislative action; however, they continue to draw their full salaries.
Currently, most legislators are paid a salary of about $100,000 per year. Legislators also receive per diem, health, dental, and vision benefits. They do not however, receive state retirement benefits.
With the approval of Proposition 50, legislators can now suspend members without salary and benefits. The measure also prohibits suspended members from using the powers of their office or legislative resources. It also gives legislators two options for ending suspensions. Suspension can be ended by a predetermined specific date or by a vote of either the house or Senate as appropriate; any such action require a two-thirds vote by the appropriate house.
Those who supported the legislation like the organization California Forward, believed lawmakers should be able to hold their own colleagues accountable if they breach the public's trust. The legislation also enjoyed strong bi-partisan support.
Although opposition to the measure was limited, there was criticism that the measure still allowed legislators to remain in office even after having been indicted and/or convicted; however, legislators do have a discipline option available that is more severe than the suspension option selected for the three senators in 2014. Legislators can choose to expel a fellow legislator putting an end to his or term in office—however, this has not happened since 1905.