California: While the Cat's Away

Just two hours after Ronald Reagan and California Lieutenant Governor Bob Finch left for Miami Beach, a Democratic state senator began raising some dust back home. Senator Hugh M. Burns, president pro tem of the California senate and Acting Governor in the absence of the top two executive officers, invoked an obscure article of the state constitution and abruptly ordered the legislature to adjourn.

The act was unprecedented in California history, but apparently legal. The constitution states that a Governor may adjourn the state legislature when senate and assembly are in disagreement over adjournment. There was indeed disagreement. Senators had been...