Fast-track legislators stall on reform

A late-blooming, business-backed drive to significantly alter the 42-year-old California Environmental Quality Act died late last week when it crashed into a wall of opposition from influential environmental groups.

That wasn’t the official reason, of course. Rather, legislative leaders insisted that putting off CEQA modification was a good government decision not to rush something so significant.

“This law, for all of its strengths and its faults, is far too important to rewrite in the last days of the session,” state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said.

Steinberg, who does public sincerity well, uttered those words with a straight face. But at the risk of sounding churlish, one must point out that the fact that just a few days remain in the session has not dissuaded him or other legislative leaders from ginning up almost countless numbers of new bills with far-reaching economic and social effects.

Such as:

  • Steinberg’s own bill that would overturn, or at least significantly alter, a 2011 state Supreme Court decision on how medical costs are to be awarded in personal injury cases, the top priority of his friends with the Consumer Attorneys of California, the trade group for personal injury lawyers. If enacted, his bill could have multibillion-dollar effects.
  • Another Steinberg bill that would semilegalize about 3 million illegal immigrants in California by allowing them to file income tax returns, plus a second measure that would grant state driver’s licenses to at least some of those immigrants.
  • An overhaul of the state’s system of compensating workers for job-related illnesses and injuries that was drafted in private by unions and major employers and placed in bill form just last week, but is drawing heavy opposition from workers’ comp lawyers, medical care providers and small employers.
  • On Tuesday, a supposed reform of the immense structure of pensions for state and local government workers, once again hammered out in secrecy with Gov. Jerry Brown.

Virtually all of these and many other last-minute bills are being rushed through the process as “gut-and-amend” exercises, wherein a dormant bill’s contents are stripped out and an entirely new bill is inserted, bypassing the multiple hearings and other legislative hurdles that more ordinary measures must endure.

Some of these transmogrified measures are hundreds of pages long, making it virtually impossible for anyone outside the inner circles of “stakeholders” to fully understand what they would do. And some are being treated as budget “trailer bills,” thus qualifying them for fast action, even if they have little to do with the budget and just contain token $1,000 appropriations.

Good government? Taking the time to do it right? Scarcely.

Dan Walters covers state politics for the Sacramento Bee.

Dan WaltersGovernor Jerry BrownOp EdsOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Those who stick around San Francisco on long holiday weekends can enjoy a slower pace, uncrowded streets and beloved institutions like cable cars. <ins>(Kevin Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
These empty San Francisco streets: A holiday dream

We’re here because we can be, and because we have nowhere else to be

It’s disheartening to see that Bill Graham Civic’s marquee isn’t announcing upcoming concerts. (Screenshot/Bill Graham Civic Twitter)
A cruise through The City with the ghosts of rides past

I take my time and don’t even mind the occasional traffic jams

The 2020 Census has concluded taking responses sooner than expected. (Courtesy photo)
What does California have to lose if undocumented immigrants are excluded from the census?

By Kim Bojórquez The Sacramento Bee If The U.S. Supreme Court rules… Continue reading

A ban on smoking or vaping in multi-unit buildings has drawn opposition from cannabis advocates, who say it would leave users with no legal place to consume a legal substance. (Shutterstock)
Cannabis group slams Yee’s proposed apartment smoking ban as ‘classist’

Legislation would impose fines of $1,000 a day on repeat violators

The most dangerous behaviors by drivers include failing to yield right-of-way at crosswalks, unsafe speeding and failing to stop at red lights or stop signs. <ins>(Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>

Most Read