Leg­is­la­ture warms up, but the game is far off

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - GE­ORGE SKEL­TON

Hun­dreds of bills flew from one leg­isla­tive house to the other last week in an ex­er­cise much like bat­ting prac­tice.

Or like golfers tak­ing swings on a driv­ing range. Or two ten­nis com­peti­tors stroking balls back and forth be­fore their match.

Lots of com­mo­tion, but lit­tle that was par­tic­u­larly mean­ing­ful. That won’t come for most of th­ese bills un­til at least Au­gust or Septem­ber, and maybe not un­til the two-year leg­isla­tive ses­sion ad­journs around La­bor Day in 2016.

At this stage of the leg­isla­tive game, many law­mak­ers are just cast­ing cour­tesy votes, go­ing along to get along, to para­phrase the leg­endary U.S. House Speaker Sam Ray­burn. Why tick off col­leagues so soon by killing their bills? Bet­ter to curry fa­vor.

Also, all law­mak­ers re­serve the right to change their mind. And the bills def­i­nitely will change in the other house. Then they’ll be re­turned to be voted on again. Some votes will be bartered as trad­ing chips.

Last week’s flurry of ac­tiv­ity was about meet­ing the June 5 dead­line for bills to pass their house of ori­gin.

Many will die in the other house. And they should.

For me, one prime can­di­date for burial is SB 151, by

Sen. Ed Her­nan­dez (D-West Cov­ina), which would raise the legal age to buy cig­a­rettes from 18 to 21. Yes, wouldn’t that be nice. But let’s get real. We can’t even en­force the age 18 limit. Kids some­how get smokes at 14 or when­ever they want.

Gov­ern­ment shouldn’t waste time en­act­ing laws that haven’t got half a chance of be­ing ef­fec­tive.

An­other bill that should per­ish, un­less sub­stan­tially beefed up, is AB 575 by As­sem­bly­man Pa­trick O’Don­nell (D-Long Beach). Its goal is wor­thy: To strengthen teacher eval­u­a­tions. But I chal­lenge any­one to ex­plain how this bill would do that.

Its driv­ing force is union jit­ters over a Los An­ge­les judge’s throw­ing out teacher se­nior­ity pro­tec­tions. The rul­ing is un­der ap­peal. The Demo­cratic-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture po­lit­i­cally can­not change ten­ure or dis­missal laws much, but it can wave the flag for teacher qual­ity. So wave it with mean­ing.

Many mea­sures, how­ever, should live on, in­clud­ing:

The as­sisted-sui­cide bill, SB 128, by Sens. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and Bill Mon­ning (D-Carmel). It would al­low Cal­i­for­ni­ans with less than six months to live to end their lives by tak­ing lethal drugs. There’d be lots of hur­dles to guard against abuse.

This mea­sure prompted the most emo­tional de­bate of the week. There was lengthy ar­gu­ment about what’s moral and what’s com­pas­sion­ate.

“Any death that is not a nat­u­ral death,” said Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Te­mec­ula), “is a sin.”

“If it’s the will of a pa­tient to lessen suf­fer­ing [and] vol­un­tar­ily end life in peace,” said Wolk, “is it our right to say you can’t?”

It shouldn’t be. Every­body should fol­low their own faith, but don’t force yours on me.

Reg­u­la­tion of med­i­cal mar­i­juana. Fi­nally.

It has been nearly two decades since Cal­i­for­ni­ans passed a bal­lot ini­tia­tive to per­mit smok­ing pot to kill pain. Reg­u­la­tions were promised and never de­liv­ered. Medic­i­nal weed is out of con­trol.

Each house passed a sep­a­rate bill, SB 643 and AB 266. Ba­si­cally, the leg­is­la­tion would cre­ate a new state of­fice to reg­u­late how mar­i­juana is grown and sold. Busi­nesses would be li­censed. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments would have en­force­ment pow­ers and could cre­ate mar­i­juana sales taxes.

Sev­eral leg­is­la­tors are au­thors. As­sem­bly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) is in­sist­ing they com­pro­mise so, this time, some­thing gets done.

Pro­vid­ing health­care for many im­mi­grants here il­le­gally.

SB 4, by Sen. Ri­cardo Lara (D-Bell Gar­dens), is sig­nif­i­cantly scaled down from its orig­i­nal ver­sion. It now would per­mit roughly 240,000 mi­nors to sign up for Medi-Cal — gov­ern­ment health­care for the poor — and al­low ac­cess to a sep­a­rate pro­gram for some low-in­come adults.

Repub­li­can Sen. Andy Vi­dak (R-Han­ford), whose dis­trict is home for many im­mi­grant farm­work­ers, said it best: “Tax­pay­ers al­ready are pay­ing high health­care costs for the un­doc­u­mented when they show up in our emer­gency rooms.”

Then there are bills that should be very closely stud­ied and al­tered, even if they are po­lit­i­cally trendy for rul­ing Democrats. They in­clude:

Es­ca­lat­ing the war on cli­mate change.

SB 350, by Se­nate leader Kevin de León (D-Los An­ge­les), would re­quire us, by 2030, to gen­er­ate half our en­ergy from re­new­able sources, cut gaso­line use in half and dou­ble the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of older build­ings.

De León called those man­dates “rea­son­able and achiev­able.”

Se­nate Repub­li­can Leader Bob Huff of San Di­mas coun­tered that the goal is “very lofty and noble” but added: “Other than [us] feel­ing good about it, what does it ac­com­plish?” un­less other states and na­tions fol­low our lead.

And there’s lit­tle sign of that.

Rais­ing the state min­i­mum wage. Again.

SB 3, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Fran­cisco) would boost the $9 min­i­mum to $11 an hour next Jan­uary and to $13 in 2017.

Most Democrats con­tended that’s fair and would stim­u­late the econ­omy. Repub­li­cans ar­gued it would re­duce jobs be­cause small busi­nesses couldn’t af­ford the wage hikes.

Seems to me it also could inch up con­sumer prices — in­fla­tion — and squeeze the el­derly on fixed in­comes.

A bet­ter plan for the work­ing poor is Gov. Jerry Brown’s pro­posal to en­act Cal­i­for­nia’s first earned­in­come tax credit for the low­est wage-earn­ers.

All th­ese bills will heat up in late sum­mer. And next time it won’t be bat­ting prac­tice.

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

MUL­TI­PLE VA­RI­ETIES of pot are on dis­play at a med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary in Oak­land. Two bills that would reg­u­late med­i­cal pot have ad­vanced.

Michael Robin­son Chavez Los An­ge­les Times

A BILL in the Leg­is­la­ture, SB 151, would raise the legal age to buy cig­a­rettes from 18 to 21.

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