Legislature Home Stretch Update
There's lots of significant news in the Legislature's last week regarding various bills, and it's extremely difficult to keep up with it all, probably by design. I should point out that, while the legislative calendar has an end date, there's no actual reason for some of the forced bottlenecks that result in hundreds of bills being passed at the last minute. It creates a shroud of secrecy in which special interests rule, and saps the public trust. A Democratic leadership actually interested in positioning government as somewhat decent would remove these forced bottlenecks from the internal legislative rules and allow bills to be approved on a rolling basis. That said, this is the system we have now, and here's a bunch of news about various bills:
• A new bill would exempt non-General Fund workers from furloughs. This would reverse one of the dumbest provisions in the budget bill, the practice of forcing furloughs on workers not paid by state government, saving almost no money and depriving people of needed services. Of course, the Governor will probably veto this one, because he hates admitting how wrong he is.
• Democrats on that vaunted water committee have decided against floating a bond to pay for any restoration or overhaul of the Delta. This means Republicans won't vote for it, and very little will come of this very important committee thrown together at the last minute. Some conference committee reports are here, but a deal looks remote, as it would need votes from some of the empty chairs in the Yacht Party.
• One bill that has cleared both chambers would set up "Education Finance Districts", "in which three or more contiguous school districts can band together to try to increase local taxes." This is a small step to make it easier for districts to pass parcel taxes to fund schools, but at this point every little bit helps. The 2/3 rule for approving such taxes would remain.
• With all the talk of health care reform, it's notable that an anti-rescission bill has once again passed the legislature. The bill would also simplify insurance forms. Last session, Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. There's something you don't hear much about from the Democratic leadership - Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have banned insurance companies from dropping patients after they get sick. He sided with the forces of insurer-assisted suicide. This is your modern Yacht Party on this issue:
"Any of those who have read the various exposés in the Los Angeles Times and others . . . is aware that health insurers have admitted and acknowledged they engaged in a form of post-claims underwriting," said Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido). "It is unethical and, considering what some of these people have endured, it really borders on the immoral."
However, Wyland said he would not vote for the bill because the Department of Insurance has proposed new rules to solve the problem, and he wants to see how they work.
Hey, give 'em a chance to see if the immorality stops! If not, we can think it over.
• The Legislature may extend a homebuyer's tax credit passed in a previous budget agreement that was nothing but a bailout for developers. It only credited new construction, and was structured only to benefit high-income households who could afford new construction. By the way, sales of new units have fell since this was enacted, so it's not even meeting its intended purpose. But it's a giveaway to a special interest, so off the money may go, even though we cannot afford it at this time.
• A bill to ban bisphenol A (BPA) from children's products was delayed after the Assembly couldn't muster 41 votes. The debate in the Assembly last night was pretty fierce.
• Cities and counties reacted angrily to a proposed bill to slow local government bankruptcies until vetted by the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission. On the merits this looks to be a bill that would install more control on locals from Sacramento, although there are arguments on both sides. But mainly it's about the fate of union contracts in local bankruptcies, I don't think either side would deny that.
• A roundup of other bills passed yesterday can be found here.