Stage Legislature’s final week in session is just fun and games 

In the last few days of the 2011 legislative session, as usual, it has been time for fun (nightly rounds of campaign fund-
raising events) and games (figuring out ways to pass or kill bills). So here is a sampling of what has been happening, or not happening, in the last hectic hours:

Dozens of California’s special- interest lobbyists, cellphones on full alert, milled in the back hallways of the Capitol as both legislative houses conducted marathon floor sessions to act on hundreds of bills.

Floor sessions were interrupted occasionally for caucuses; Democratic and Republican lawmakers dissolved into private meetings, sometimes  for  hours, to plot strategy.

Measures that had languished in limbo for months were suddenly revived, their contents stripped out and entirely new pieces of legislation inserted into their shells.

  • With Democrat Jerry Brown back as governor, unions, personal injury lawyers, environmentalists and consumer activists pushed hard for their long-stalled agendas and did battle with business groups, but weren’t doing very well. The state Chamber of Commerce’s “job killer” list was pared from several dozen bills to about a half-dozen.
  • However, the dozens of bills that underwent “gut-and-amend” included several new measures for unions. One would make tens of thousands of state-paid child care providers eligible for union membership while another would financially punish local governments that refuse to enact so-called “project labor agreements” with unions on public works projects.
  • The child care bill, long rumored to be lurking in the Capitol’s shadows and personally carried by Assembly Speaker John A. Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, appeared to benefit the Service Employees International Union, perhaps to offset cuts in unionized home care for the disabled and aged.
  • Democratic leaders were also pushing contentious bill allowing local transportation agencies to impose new levies on auto fuel.
  • There was an 11th-hour flurry of efforts to alter election rules, including a still-unwritten bill sought by Democrats and unions to make all initiative measures go on the November ballot and a newly written bill that would effectively end write-in votes for state offices, thus settling a legal issue over the impact of Proposition 14, the new “top-two” primary election system.


Dan Walters’ Sacramento Bee columns on state politics are syndicated by the Scripps Howard News Service.

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Dan Walters

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