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Welcome to the Sacramento Report, where once a week we’ll be recapping the hottest and most important stories in California state politics – with an eye for how it all impacts San Diego.
We’re kicking things off at an interesting time. The November election (Tuesday, Nov. 4) is exactly 60 days away. You can bet that will be dominating the headlines out of the state capitol – even when the races aren’t tight. (Exhibit A: Coverage of last night’s gubernatorial debate between Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican Neel Kashkari.) For San Diegans, one of the biggest state election stories will be whether Toni Atkins, the Assembly speaker, can maintain the Democrats’ two-thirds hold on the Legislature’s lower house.
But before we get caught up in campaign season, we have the small matter of the Legislature’s final actions this year, a hectic period known in capitol circles as “the end of session” (said always with foreboding gloom). The Legislature wrapped up its business for 2014 early Saturday morning and, as always, getting to the end was a grind. Lawmakers, like college students, prefer to hold off their work until the last minute, which means the final days of session are marathons, with legislators passing literally hundreds of bills over the course of eight, 10, 12, 15 hours. It’s brutal.
This year, the Legislature knocked out several historic bills (more on that below) as well as a couple with strong San Diego ties. Lawmakers unanimously approved Assembly Bill 922 by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, which provides tax relief to San Diegans recovering from this year’s wildfires.
The Legislature also approved AB 1522 the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, which requires employers to pay sick leave for part-time employees. Brown is so in favor of this bill that he took the unusual step of putting out a statement about it: “Tonight, the Legislature took historic action to help hardworking Californians. This bill guarantees that millions of workers – from Eureka to San Diego – won’t lose their jobs or pay just because they get sick.” (Governors typically don’t telegraph their support or opposition of a bill until the moment they sign it or veto it.)
In addition to the election, news out of the capitol over the next month will focus on which bills Brown signs and vetoes. He has until the end of September to work his way through the massive amount of bills that just landed on his desk.
With that in mind, now seems like a good time to see what San Diego’s lawmakers accomplished this year. Below is a list of San Diego’s state lawmakers and the number of their bills approved by the Legislature during its two year (2013-14) session. Keep in mind that the raw number of bills passed doesn’t encompass all that a legislator does. Lawmakers can negotiate key provisions in someone else’s bill or serve in leadership, as Atkins does, which can severely cut down on bill authorship.
So this isn’t a scorecard. But it is interesting, showing one’s ability to get his or her own bills through the complex – and often heated – process.
Maienschein stands out not only because he had the most bills, but also because he’s a Republican. For a member of the minority party to get that many bills through is an accomplishment given Sacramento’s polarization. Maienschein, however, is known as a moderate willing to work with the other party. It shows.
You’re reading the Sacramento Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of state capitol news.
San Diego in State News
• In the wake of Chula Vista Sen. Ben Hueso’s arrest on suspicion of drunk driving, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins is thinking about establishing Assembly house rules regarding the consumption of alcohol. (CPR)
• Speaking of Hueso, the arrest rate for the California Senate has risen higher than that of all of the state’s largest cities. Ouch. (Sacramento Bee)
• Even more on Hueso: Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters says “The Legislature’s history has always been intertwined with liquor.”
• Constance Carroll, the chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, says the “time is right” for community colleges to start offering bachelor’s degrees. The bill that would make that happen was written by San Diego Sen. Marty Block, and is awaiting a decision from Brown. (Sacramento Bee)
• Atkins is proud of what the Legislature accomplished this year: “It’s clear we have had an enormously productive year that has the potential to shape California far into the future.” (U-T)
Noteworthy Bills Passed
• Before session ended early Saturday morning, state lawmakers approved the nation’s first legislation to define sexual consent on college campuses. (Time)
• Another bill sent to the governor would require those who fill out death certificates to record the decedent’s “gender identity.” (Reuters)
• The Legislature passed a bill outlining new insurance mandates for ride-share companies like Uber. (San Jose Mercury News)
• Say goodbye to your plastic grocery bags? The Legislature sent the governor a bill to ban ’em. (Sacramento Bee)
• Bills regulating the pumping of groundwater also reach the governor’s desk. (Contra Costa Times)
More Quick Hits
• The L.A. Times’ George Skelton says the two-year legislative session that just concluded was “moderately productive.” He credits that productivity to a series of recent political reforms. (L.A. Times)
• Arnold Schwarzenegger will be back at the Capitol Monday for the unveiling of his official gubernatorial portrait. (All governors of California get a portrait made of them for display.) No word on whether he’ll be wearing sunglasses or leather in the picture. (Sacramento Bee)
• Two California counties have asked to form a 51st state called Jefferson. (AP)
• State senators raised significantly less money in the final days of the legislative session this year, thanks to a fundraising blackout implemented in the wake of that house’s string of scandals. (Sacramento Bee)
Prediction: Brown this month will veto one major piece of legislation approved by the Legislature and will cite costs as the reason.
Oh yeah, and all anyone will want to talk about in Sacramento is bill-signings and the election.