Brown Paddles Left, Right on Bills

Getty/Justin Sullivan

It is easily the most familiar (and perhaps overused) shorthand for Governor Jerry Brown's philosophy of governance and politics. And yet Brown's self-described "canoe theory" seems to have stood the test of time, with his paddling skills put to the test this past week navigating Capitol waters thick with hundreds of pieces of legislation.

For now, the paddle has been laid down, as has the signing pen, giving the public the chance to gauge whether Brown's path was straight or wildly off course.
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When All Was Said And Done

October 12, 2009 · Filed Under Legislation, State Legislation, The Governor · Comments Off 

The Great 'Give Me Water or I'll Give You Vetoes' Showdown of 2009 is now over. And as is often the case around the Capitol, everyone lives to fight another day.

Just after 9:30 pm last night, Governor Schwarzenegger released a statement that ended the long-running saga over a deal on water issues, and whether lack of said deal would trigger a mass veto of legislation worked on all throughout the year.
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To Sign or Not Sign, That Is the Question

September 22, 2009 · Filed Under CA Budget, Legislation, State Legislation, The Governor · Comments Off 

The autumnal equinox is often marked in Sacramento by the state's chief executive signing or vetoing hundreds of bills submitted by the Legislature.

This season is no diffferent. Or... is it?
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No Sale of the Big House

March 31, 2009 · Filed Under Legislation, State Legislation · Comments Off 

San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell.
May your walls fall and may I live to tell.
May all the world forget you ever stood.
And may all the world regret you did no good.

Those are Johnny Cash's words in his 1969 classic about California's most infamous prison.

And for now, it's going to stay a prison.

After a brief debate this morning, legislation to close San Quentin State Prison and sell its Marin coastline property was shelved, and it appears the proposal could ultimately be rejected later this year in the state Senate.
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The Blanket Veto

September 29, 2008 · Filed Under Elections, Legislation, State Legislation · Comments Off 

With the fatigue of the budget saga slowly starting to fade (especially for those of us who took a few days off, which explains for the missing podcast last week), the annual process of bill signings and vetoes is also about to draw to a close.

Governor Schwarzenegger has a little more than 24 hours left to weigh in on bills sent to his desk by the Legislature. The weekend saw a flurry of signings and vetoes, too many to really keep track. In fact, one of the less talked about truths of this week is whether anyone truly can watch all of these bills. Certainly the shrinking Capitol press corps struggles more and more every year to do so.

Nonetheless, the intriguing side story to all of this is all of the vetoes that are being blamed on the budget impasse.

"Given the [budget] delay, I am only signing bills that are the highest priority for California," says Schwarzenegger in the boilerplate veto being attached to dozens and dozens of proposals.

Of course, determining "priority" is a subjective exercise and the supporters of some of these bills have questioned the governor's own standard. One poignant questioning of the standard came this morning from California's top elections official, Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Bowen was critical of the governor's blanket veto of several elections-related proposals, including new ways for vote-by-mail to learn if their ballots have been rejected, and why; a bill making it easier for voters to change their mind after signing an initiative petition; and two measures helping indepedent voters understand their rights in choosing party ballots in primary elections.

"I'm dismayed the governor doesn’t believe it is a high priority to let voters know about their polling-place rights or if their votes were counted," said Bowen in a written statement. "I understand the governor is not fond of the Legislature these days, but it's California voters who are being punished."

Napa Yes, Budget No

July 16, 2008 · Filed Under CA Budget, Legislation, State Legislation, The Governor · Comments Off 

BUDGET DAY PLUS 15 -- With legislative leaders again gathering, and adjourning, with no resolution to the state's budget woes today, we can at least give thanks for a new boost to the Napa wine industry.

Governor Schwarzenegger signed two bills into law today affecting the nation's most famous wine region. AB 2004 will allow more wineries to sell vino that can be consumed on the premises. Current law has tied most imbibing to wineries that also have a restaurants or bistro. The bill sailed through the Legislature with no opposition.

AB 2266 gives Napa County an extra 15 licenses for the sale of alcohol over the next three years. The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control ties the number of licenses to a county's population, which sometimes means the rare licenses are sold and re-sold for a hefty price. Folks in Napa complained that the county's population growth has remained fairly flat, while more and more tourists flock to the area looking for food and drink. The bill was supported by everyone, it seems, but the owner of two Napa restaurants who argued the extra licenses would "flood" the license market and "devalue" his investment.

Both bills were authored by Assmeblymember Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa).

Perhaps we should all make a road trip to Napa and bring back a gift for legislative leaders still split over the budget. After all, they've often joked in the past that budget talks are best paired with a nice wine.

Speaking of those talks... the governor has scheduled a meeting tomorrow with the four legislative leaders for a so-called "Big Five" confab.

The One Word Change

June 25, 2008 · Filed Under CA Government, Legislation, State Legislation · Comments Off 

The ongoing saga of whether some reproductively intact pets in California should be spayed or neutered goes on, after today's approval by a state Senate panel of controversial legislation on the subject... but approval that came only after the change of a single word in the bill.

AB 1634 by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) began its legislative life as a strong requirement to sterilize most dogs and cats. But recent amendments moved the focus to sterlization for animals deemed by animal control officials to be problem pets.

The debate this morning before the Senate Local Government Committee attracted a large crowd of both supporters and opponents. And it focused on AB 1634's requirement that a citation must be issued after animal control officials receive a report of a problem pet. On the third citation, a dog would have to be fixed; a cat would have to be fixed after two citations.

So what happens, asked Sen. Tom Harman (R-Orange), if the complaint made to animal control officials is "frivolous or false"? Could a dispute between neighbors over something entirely different lead to mandatory sterlization of a dog after three complaints?

After a long discussion, Assemblymember Levine -- who either saw merit in the above scenario or simply decided that some bill was better than no bill -- agreed to once again amend AB 1634.

Now, instead of saying a pet owner "shall be cited" when a complaint is made... the bill says a pet owner "may be cited." And that wiggle room for local animal control officials was enough to draw the vote of Sen. Mike Machado (D-Linden), who cast the deciding vote.

Pet Sterlization is an emotional issue (after my last posting on this bill, I received more emails than on just about any topic). As such, it's unclear whether the two sides have found a proposal they can both live with... or are going to continue to battle it out as the bill heads next to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Amended Bills: Pet Sterilization, Porn Tax

June 23, 2008 · Filed Under CA Government, Legislation, State Legislation · Comments Off 

With the looming deadline for legislation to clear policy committees in the state Capitol, some of the more noteworthy bills of the two year sesssion are being either tweaked or virtually rewritten.

Two of the bills that are newly modified have been the source of a lot of attention.

First is the hugely debated proposal to require most dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered. The bill, AB 1634 by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), ran aground in 2007 after organized and vocal opposition.

Late last week, Levine all but scrapped the mandatory sterlization plan. The new bill says that a dog impounded at a shelter will be sterilized on the third visit; the first two impoundments of an "intact" pooch will result in monetary fines. For cats, it's spaying or neutering on the second visit to the shelter. AB 1634's only other required sterilization is for a pet that's the subject of a complaint to a local animal control agency.

In other words... if you control your dog or cat, he or she can keep all of his or her parts. So will that mollify the critics?

Nope.

The group known as PetPAC plans to lobby legislators tomorrow in their continued opposition to AB 1634, now calling it a "three strikes for pets" bill.

[UPDATE Tuesday, 8:32 am -- Note to self: don't write about AB 1634 again. Thanks to all of you who read the posting and then promptly fired off an email to me. Yes, I've read the bill. No, I'm not brain dead. Yes, I understand that this is a controversial bill. No, I'm not brain dead. Seriously though... the sheer number of emails that arrived that used the exact same arguments, and even same language, only reminds me of the 4,210,923 reasons I'll never run for elected office. And again, to the nice lady who loves cats: No, I'm not brain dead. At least not today.]

Meantime, the highly publicized push for a new tax on the adult entertainment industry has been scaled back. After being scaled up, that is.

AB 2914 by Assemblymember Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) proposes a new tax on everything from adult entertainment stores to the XXX movie industry, with the money earmarked for programs to "ameliorate the secondary effects" of the industry on communities.

The original version of the proposal, submitted on April 3, called for an 8% tax on stores that specialize in "adult materials" and adult entertainment clubs. Then on May 8, Calderon upped it to a 25% tax and added in businesses that "produce" adult movies.

Now, in amendements filed last Thursday, Calderon has gone back down to an 8.3% tax on most of these businesses.

No word yet on whether that eased the adult entertainment industry's mind... though it's doubtful that it has.

Pet Sterilization, Round Two?

May 28, 2008 · Filed Under Legislation, State Legislation · Comments Off 

A few days ago, a new billboard went up alongside Interstate 5 here in Sacramento, at a location on the freeway where you can see the dome of the state Capitol in the background. That's not by accident.

AB 1634

The above logo plastered on the billboard is new... but the issue is not. In fact, it appears we're in for a new chapter in a contentious battle-- a fight over legislation to require most dogs and cats be spayed or neutered.

AB 1634 by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) was one of the most talked about bills of 2007 in Sacramento. Thousands of letters, emails, and phone calls on both sides were launched at the Legislature. Levine amended the legislation seven times in hopes of mollifying critics that called it, among other things, an unfair limit on their basic freedoms.

But since July of last year, AB 1634 has sat in the Senate Local Government Committee.

So what gives with the new campaign?

"We're gearing back up," said Judie Mancuso of the pro-AB 1634 California Taxpayers for Safe and Healthy Pets. Mancuso says the billboards were paid for by a Los Angeles physician, and that her group is hoping to revive the issue of mandatory spay/neuter before time runs out.

Mancuso's group commissioned a poll earlier this year where two-thirds of respondents said they either somewhat support or strongly support a proposal like AB 1634. She also says the group hired a powerful lobbying firm to try and run the bill across the goal line in the Legislature.

That being said, there are likely to again be large throngs of opponents decrying what they call a "one size fits all" approach to the pet population. Still, Assemblymember Levine said in a brief phone interview today that "the need for this type of legislation still exists."

Time is short on this one; Assembly bills have until June 27 to make it out of policy committees in the Senate.

College Cuts, Porn Tax, and... More?

April 21, 2008 · Filed Under CA Budget, Legislation, State Legislation · Comments Off 

Where else would a headline like that be written than here at the state Capitol? A few items of note as the week begins...

A NEW TAXXX: Today was lobbying day for the adult entertainment industry, one of the more unusual annual rituals at a statehouse was unusual is the norm. The fully clothed ensemble that made their way to Sacramento had a particular gripe this time around: pending legislation to impose a new (and extra) 8% tax on adult DVD stores, theaters, and nightclubs. The money collected by the tax in Assemblymember Charles Calderon's bill, AB 2914, would create a new fund to supposedly mitigate the impact of such businesses on local communities.

Let's just answer that burning question now, shall we? Yes, adult film stars were in attendance. And no, I shouldn't have Googled them in advance when I didn't recognize the names listed on the press advisory (seriously, KQED, I was doing research).

Now that we have that out of the way... the industry representatives argued the tax would send many in the multi-billion dollar sex industry packing to other states. "You do not want this industry to relocate," said Jeffrey Douglas of the industry-sponsored Free Speech Coalition.

Of course, AB 2914 could pose an interesting dilemma for some legislators, namely Republicans. After all, if you're a social conservative you'd probably love nothing more than to see the XXX industry move out. But if you're a fiscal conservative, you're probably loathe to enact a new tax. Oh, the irony.

A FALL CLASSIC AT THE CAPITOL? Hundreds of college students from around the state descended on Sacramento this morning to protest Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts, and the likely ensuing tuition hikes. Such a protest has become a predictable, though unfortunate, reality at the state Capitol in recent years. And among those speaking from the podium on the Capitol steps, Senate President pro Tem Don Perata... perhaps the best situated of any of the speakers to reject the governor's budget plan.

"We need to raise taxes in order to educate Californians," he told the crowd. And if that wasn't enough tough talk, Perata repeated his recent pledge to stay in session as long it takes to get the budget Democrats want. "If we have to watch the World Series from this building, we will do it."

SADDLED UP: Speaking of budget cuts, a smaller group of protesters was on the other side of the Capitol this morning to lament another part of the governor's spending plan. About two dozen folks had marched from the nearby Sutter's Fort to protest Schwarzenegger's proposed spending cuts for California state parks, many of them wearing clothes from the 1800's. Others made the journey on horseback and in vintage wagons... which led to a different kind of spectacle: one of the many hitched-up horses relieving himself on the street in front of the Capitol, just as a repulsed group of college students from the other event happened to stroll by.

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