Had enough yet?
That's the question reform-minded lawmakers -- if, indeed, such exist -- should ask colleagues when the Legislature reconvenes this week after its spring break.
They should follow up by asking: Are you ready to clean up this cesspool?
The answer should be not just a "yes, let's do something so this will go away," but a sincere "yes."
Politics will always be politics, and no amount of reform will turn the Legislature into the Vienna Boys Choir, but much can -- and should -- be done to improve its ethical standards.
Clearly, there is a need. Members should be embarrassed.
Three state senators, all Democrats, have been suspended -- with pay, mind you -- for unrelated allegations. One has already been convicted and the others face serious charges, including bribery and gun-running for goodness' sake.
Also, two major lobbying firms have paid record fines for playing fast and loose with the already fast and loose lobbying rules that govern their contact and relationships with legislators.
These events have conspired to do what we thought impossible: hurt the Legislature's already-dismal public image.
Working from the cynical crisis playbook of Chicago Mayor (and former presidential chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel, many outside reform advocates reckon that this convergence of scandals is too good to waste. They hope to resurrect repeatedly rejected reform bills as well as fashioning new ones.
While we applaud that noble effort, no one should be deluded into thinking there is a flawless reform package out there.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, got it right when he told the Sacramento Bee, "no ethics class is going to teach somebody not to gun-run or take money in an envelope. On the other hand, I think it is an appropriate moment in time to take stock and look at all that we do, and how we do it."
We could not agree more -- as long as that assessment goes beyond window dressing. Legislators should be willing to listen to all reasonable ideas.
Whatever is done, it must greatly increase disclosure. Beyond that, we are intrigued by the notion of requiring legislation to be in print for at least three days before a vote. It could make slimy, last-minute deals more difficult.
We also favor creation of a sort of inspector general's office, which would be funded from existing revenues and would operate independently. It would investigate ethical complaints and report its findings directly to the people. We suspect that last one will have to come from the people, and not the Legislature.
But specifics aren't the point. We must understand that if strong reforms don't happen now, they likely never will.
So, again, we ask, have you had enough yet?