On the Floor again -Part Two

Our blog entry from the Assembly Floor last week received a great deal of praise and interest. We asked our friend and big-time Speak Out California supporter, Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg to continue providing us with her observation from the Floor. Below are her comments from Monday’s long and fast-paced session, which included passage of SB840, Senatof Sheila Kuehl’s ground-breaking Health Care for All measure:
It’s 1:21 p.m. and we’ve been in session since 11 a.m. and we have passed 36 bills so far. Whew! That is an exciting pace to say the least. We are voting on “Concurrence” bills first. These are the bills that passed the Assembly long ago, went to the Senate, and are coming back because they were amended in the Senate. We are required to pass IDENTICAL measures, so that is why we have this second Assembly vote. It is also why we can pass so many bills in such a short time.
But these last four days are when all the mischief that is going to happen, happens. The hallways are filled with lobbyists; and our offices are filled with lobbyists as well. People want to stop some bills, and to gather support.
Why do I say “mischief”? Well, this is a time when any bill not passed by Thursday is dead, dead, dead.
The deals that are made by majority party leadership at the end of session are often on the most controversial bills. This year some of the controversies are: AB 32 by Pavley and Nunez which will reduce emissions that cause global warming in California by 25% by the year 2020: a Senate bill that would extend the compact with the Agua Caliente Tribe for 24 more years, without labor protection, and with an exclusivity provision that covers Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Orange County and San Bernardino counties. That means that only federally recognized tribes could be approved to compete with this Palm Springs tribe for the next 24 years; an Assembly bill by Speaker Nunez that would have the effect of having the state negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of medication for those who are not insured for medications; and a bill that changes how the Los Angeles Unified School district will be governed.
There are many key bills that are being brought forth this year, because it is an election year for Governor Schwarzenegger. Since he is trying to “remake” himself into a “moderate Democrat” some Democrats are trying to push the envelope while the opportunity exists,with bills like SB 840 (Kuehl) that would provide universal healthcare to all California residents. Also, we will put on the Governor’s desk, a bill that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.00 per hour over the next 18 months.
When a bill receives fewer than 41 votes, it is put “on call ” so that the author can try to persuade members to bring the count to the 41 votes required for passage. In this session, we already have 10 bills “on call.” One such bill is SB 1283 (Chesbro). This bill would require retailers to conspicuously post the requirements for customers if they want to return or exchange items they have purchased. Now why would this bill not pass easily? Well, it takes 41 votes to pass most bills, and there are 48 Democrats in the Assembly. This means that if eight Democrats don’t vote for a bill, it usually cannot be passed. At this time, there are more than eight Democrats in the Assembly who say they are a part of the “moderate caucus”. Progressive Democrats call them the “business caucus.” Six to eight years ago, then Speaker Bob Hertzberg started fundraising for “business” Democrats in primary election races among Democrats. Now we have a bloc of Democratic Assemblymembers who literally kill consumer protection legislation, tenant rights legislation, and many environmental bills as well. Who are these “business” Democrats? Well, there are some full-time members, and others who move in- and- out of the category. Those who usually oppose progressive legislation are: Joe Canciamilla, Ed Chavez, Ron Calderon, Barbara Matthews, Nicole Parra, Joe Baca, Jerome Horton, and Juan Arambula. Those who join in, depending on the bill are: Rudy Bermudez, Rebecca Cohn, Ted Lieu, Gloria Negrete-McLeod, Jennie Oropeza, Alberto Torrico, Tom Umberg and Juan Vargas. That is a total of 16 members from which only eight need to vote “no”, to stop a progressive piece of legislation. And they do defeat them. In the time it has taken me to write this, four more bills have been put “on call.”
These 16 people receive more than their share of funds from the large corporate interests in California and the United States. Now, don’t misunderstand. These above-named members are good Democrats. They vote for the budget, most of them vote for civil rights for all Californians, and they surely vote for many progressive labor bills In fact, most of them having a 100% vote on labor legislation. Some of these “business” Democrats represent moderate or even conservative districts, and are reflecting the views of their constituents. Others are just more moderate in their views, regardless of their district. If we are to get progressive legislation passed to protect consumers, the environment, and tenants we must look to the primary election in districts where progressive Democrats can win if we organize and find progressive candidates and support them.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned as we look at bills that are “Speaker-ized.”
Thank you, Jackie, for more insightful information about the floor activities.
By-the-way, “Speakerized” is an expression that describes a bill that the Speaker strongly supports and means he (maybe someday it will be a she) wants to be passed. Such a directive tends to carry more weight with members. If the Speaker is going to bat for a bill, whether his/her own or not, generally, the majority will vote for it. (The speaker has the power of the Perks—and all members know it).
Jackie promises more to come………….