Debra J. Saunders

To some outside California, Gov. Jerry Brown always will be kooky Gov. Moonbeam, no matter what he does.

To California Democrats, however, Brown is the political mastermind who persuaded voters to approve a ballot measure to increase taxes -- no small feat, considering that 65 percent of voters rejected a similar measure by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009. The increased revenue and an improving economy lifted Sacramento out of its habitual shortfalls.

To some Sacramento Republicans who fought Brown's efforts to put the tax increases before the voters, Dao Gov has become an object of worship. They call Brown "the adult in the room," the seasoned operator who has been able to curb the big-spending impulses and other excesses of the overwhelmingly Democratic and underwhelmingly mature state Senate and Assembly.

"Without question," Brown guru Steve Glazer opined, "he's been a moderating force against the extremes of his party."

Recently, though, Brown hasn't looked so moderate. He signed a bill that requires public schools to allow children with gender dysphoria to use school facilities -- such as bathrooms -- based on their gender identity.

In 2010, Brown said he was against allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, because it "sends the wrong signal." This month, he signed a bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. "When a million people without their documents drive legally and with respect in the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice," Brown proclaimed.

In September, Brown signed a bill to raise the state minimum wage from $8 to $10 by 2016. In a state with an 8.9 percent unemployment rate, that increase is likely to discourage small businesses from hiring new workers.

Glazer responded, "There will always be individual pieces of legislation that don't fit this (adult in the room) narrative, but when you look at his body of work in total, he has certainly been a stabilizing force." Got it, but Brown has changed.

In 2011, Brown vetoed a bill to create criminal penalties for minors (and their parents) caught skiing or snowboarding without a helmet. "While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet," Brown wrote in a refreshing veto message, "I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law."

I miss that governor. This year, Brown signed a bill requiring dog owners to have their pets vaccinated for rabies when their pooches are 3 months old instead of 4 months.

Debra J. Saunders

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