Day Four on the Floor

Assemblymember Goldberg has provided us with another day and another look at the pressures and compression of the last days of a legislative session. This is the real inside scoop that we hope will give you a better picture of how politics really operate.
Note that her references to the Koretz firearm bill is one of the six bills that Speak Out California has been following and identified as key measures for progressives to watch in the waning days of the legislative year. Not many firearms bills get through these days, as the NRA has nestled nicely in the OVal Office and kept this aspect of public safety in the freezer. We’ll follow this as well in the weeks ahead if and when it gets to the Governor’s desk.
Meanwhile, here’s Jackie’s Day Four from the Floor report:
It’s 6:40 p.m. on Wednesday night. We’ve been debating and passing on bills since 10:00 a.m. Most people are taking a dinner break. We all fight on the floor, but both parties eat together in the Members’ Lounge, with food being brought in. We all prepay for food and snacks and soft drinks when we arrive in January.
The break began when Assembly Member Koretz mentioned the name of Assembly Member La Suer in his opening speech in presenting his bill for action. Koretz is a liberal Democrat and La Suer is an ex-cop, extremely conservative Republican. Whatever was said, La Suer got into a parliamentary spat with the Speaker Pro Tem,( not to be mistaken for the Speaker….(the “Pro-Tem” usually presides over the Assembly on the dais) and so we left the floor and had dinner.
But that is not what really is going on. We are down to the last bills of the two-year session. The “head-bangers” are the bills mostly left for debate. At the end of session, relations between the Senate and the Assembly are often strained, even among members of the same party. “Head-bangers” are the bills which are controversial, or represent “big” leadership deals. And that’s where we are. The Assembly tends to be more conservative than the Senate. I think it is because smaller districts can be more homogenous than the larger Senate district.
In any case, as Senate bills by liberal Democrats come to the Assembly, they get 35-38 votes, and don’t pass. They can be reconsidered, but the Senators begin to get worried that their bills will fail, while those same Senate authors vote for the Assembly bills of Democrats who won’t support their more liberal Senate bills. So, it is almost 7 p.m., but the Senate has been working on prison issues, and has been voting only on Senate bills back in the Senate for concurrence on Assembly amendments. They are not hearing bills by Assembly Democrats.
So now as Senate bills go up for a vote, some Assembly Democrats are not voting on those bills until they hear that the Senate is working on Assembly bills. And soon, there is gridlock. This is not a Democrat vs. Republican thing. It is a more liberal Democrat vs. more “moderate” (or “business”) Democrat thing. The Senate bills that are not getting enough votes in the Assembly range from making possession of less than an ounce of marijuana an infraction instead of a misdemeanor, to a variety of pollution prevention bills, and consumer issues.
The sad part of all of this is that a lot of good bills in both houses may die. And most of them will likely be liberal Democrat bills. In the meantime, I have some bills in the Senate, so I hope that leadership of both houses will work this out.
At the moment we are debating Assemblymember Paul Koretz’ AB 352, a bill to require that certain semiautomatic pistol be equipped with microstamping technology, which imprints the make, model and serial number of the pistol into the interior of the firearm so that the information is transferred to each cartridge upon being fired. The Republicans have gone wild. They don’t want their guns to be tracked back to them I guess. But the debate is over, and now we’ve moved on. That bill is “on call.” Not enough votes, yet.
The bill that got the heat up again would require the 70 employers in California who employ more than 10,000 people each to pay 6-8 % either in benefits to their employees, or to a fund that would provide it for them. The Republicans said that they just don’t know why we (Democrats) hate success so much? (“Why do they hate democracy?”) Do these Republican speaking points sound familiar to anyone?
I tried to remind everyone that slavery was cheap and efficient. Finally, the bill passed with only Democrats voting for it. (I insisted that prices could go even lower if the Republicans were willing to reintroduce slavery into the workplace. They do not love me when I say things like that.)
Flash! The “war” between the Democrats in both houses is off, for now! It is 8:50 p.m. They are taking up Assembly bills in the Senate, and we are taking up Senate bills. Hurrah!
The scary thing going on now is the effort of Republicans and some moderate Democrats to bring all of the new tribal compacts back for a vote, again, and again. Now they are putting all of the tribal agreements into one bill and will try to bring it up again. The problem is that these new compacts will give the wealthiest tribes huge new numbers of slot machines, and they get exclusivity to be the only ones with the right to any gaming in large swaths of the state until 2030. Two of the smaller tribes have compacts that include labor agreements with unions. But the big “4” tribes specifically asked Governor Schwarzenegger to reduce labor pressure in their compacts, and because Schwarzenegger is so anti-union himself, he was oh so happy to agree. The Democrats in the Assembly have decided not to pass these compacts this year, but to wait until January 2007, and the new legislative session to take this up. There is no hurry, because the current compacts are not ready to expire for many, many years.
So why would the Governor renegotiate compacts at the end of the session (they were signed by the Governor this week!)? Well, there is an election in November. The Governor wants to paint a picture of being pro-sovereignty of Native Americans in California. But most importantly he wants their vast amounts of money to be in his campaign, and not in the Angelides campaign. So, he is trying to jam the legislature, at the last minute, to do this. In addition, the largest casino tribes want to remove, diminish, or eliminate most of the labor protections in the original compacts negotiated by Gray Davis. They weren’t much and have not really been enforced by tribal leaders. We all voted for them, because the Native American tribes were so poor and we felt a need to let them do the gaming any way they wanted.
Now, however, the largest tribes are large corporate-type casino owners. And some Democrats want to pursue labor legislation like we pursue it with other wealthy business interests. There is division among Assembly Democrats, but we all agree that it is too late in the session to fully understand these complicated compacts, and perhaps it is best to do this in the light of day, in January, since the compacts are not expiring and there really is not near deadline to get this done.
The tribal leaders are furious at Assembly Democrats. Senate Democrats voted to ratify these compacts. There are rumors that the Senate campaign funds for November have already been enriched by $ I million. I am sure there was no commitment made to get money for voting for their compacts, but by the Senate Democrats voting first, it means that they will reap rewards while Assembly Democrats have to decide whether or not to vastly expand gambling in California. (Some “conspiracy theorists”, and there are always conspiracy theories about everything in the last two or three days of the session, believe that the Senate Democrats want the Assembly Democrats to delay ratification until January, 2007 so that Senate Democrats get the money, but the state does not get a huge increase in gambling, and compacts until 2030 which require almost no labor peace at these multi-millions of dollars casinos.)
It’s 12:35 a.m. We’ve been at this well-over 14 hours. That is another reason so much mischief goes on at the end of two year sessions. We are all exhausted. Thank goodness we will close down until 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. Almost all the bills “on call” have been passed, including some really good “head bangers.” A few failed, and perhaps we will reconsider them tomorrow.
Good morning.
Thank you, Jackie……….We look forward to your report on the final day of session and all its contortions, successes and disappointments.