In the Capi­tol, two cham­bers of­ten at odds

Los Angeles Times - - ESSENTIAL POLITICS - CHRIS MEGERIAN and ME­LANIE MA­SON chris.megerian@la­ me­­son@la­ Times staff writ­ers Liam Dil­lon and Pa­trick McGreevy con­trib­uted to this re­port.

SACRAMENTO — When it comes to pol­i­tics, most peo­ple think in terms of red ver­sus blue, with Repub­li­cans fight­ing Democrats.

But in Cal­i­for­nia’s Capi­tol, the bat­tle line of­ten is be­tween red and green, the col­ors of the car­pets in the Se­nate and Assem­bly cham­bers.

Over the years, the mood has ranged from friendly ri­valry to open war­fare be­tween the two houses, which book­end ei­ther side of the Capi­tol’s or­nate ro­tunda.

By the time the leg­isla­tive ses­sion ended in the early morn­ing hours on Satur­day, some Capi­tol veter­ans said they felt the ten­sion had wors­ened.

“It seems sig­nif­i­cantly height­ened,” said Jen­nifer Fear­ing, a lob­by­ist whose clients in­clude an­i­mal rights and non­profit groups. The sit­u­a­tion was ex­ac­er­bated, she said, by a flood of con­tro­ver­sial and con­se­quen­tial pro­pos­als that orig­i­nated in the more-lib­eral Se­nate, an im­bal­ance that left the more-mod­er­ate Assem­bly feel­ing like a dump­ing ground for po­lit­i­cal hot pota­toes.

Law­mak­ers did ap­prove ma­jor leg­is­la­tion this year, in­clud­ing fund­ing for af­ford­able hous­ing, new pro­tec­tions for im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally and an ex­ten­sion for the state’s cap-and-trade pro­gram. Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los An­ge­les) likes to say it was one of the most pro­duc­tive ses­sions in the state’s his­tory.

But re­minders of the ten­sion bub­bled be­neath the sur­face and some­times broke into public view.

Af­ter law­mak­ers fin­ished their work, Assem­bly Speaker An­thony Ren­don (D-Para­mount) be­gan his speech with a dig at the oc­ca­sion­ally lo­qua­cious De León.

“The pro tem be­gan his good­night speech about an hour and a half ago,” he said, draw­ing chuck­les from the cham­ber. “I won’t last that long.”

An­thony Reyes, a spokesman for De León, didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the jab.

“I don’t un­der­stand why he en­gen­ders this bit­ter­ness to­ward the pro tem in his house,” Reyes posted on Twit­ter on Satur­day. “Re­sults in se­ri­ous petu­lance over there.”

On Thurs­day night, Assem­bly­man Adrin Nazar­ian (D-Sher­man Oaks) ini­tially re­fused to vote yes on a key hous­ing mea­sure that orig­i­nated in the Se­nate.

“I was frus­trated with the way some things were be­ing han­dled from the Se­nate lead­er­ship,” he said. “I had de­cided that I would, from time to time, ab­stain on sev­eral bills at a time in­dis­crim­i­nately just so there would be a cer­tain level of dis­com­fort.” Af­ter hold­ing out for an hour, Nazar­ian voted yes. Re­la­tion­ships be­tween the cham­bers frayed this year when sen­a­tors ap­proved leg­is­la­tion for a sin­gle-payer, gov­ern­ment-run health­care sys­tem. The idea has been a goal of pro­gres­sive ad­vo­cates for years, but the pro­posal didn’t in­clude details on how the state would pay for it.

Assem­bly mem­bers felt the Se­nate was toss­ing a con­tro­ver­sial is­sue in their laps. Ren­don halted the pro­posal and dis­missed it as “sym­bolic” with “no sub­stance.”

Sam Blakeslee, a former assem­bly­man and sen­a­tor from the Cen­tral Coast, said there has al­ways been “a vast cul­tural di­vide” be­tween the Assem­bly and Se­nate.

“The lat­ter, the so-called up­per body, of­ten holds the former in quiet con­tempt,” he said. “Assem­bly mem­bers re­sent this elitism and of­ten rel­ish sab­o­tag­ing Se­nate bills.”

V. John White, a vet­eran en­ergy ad­vo­cate, shared a ver­sion of an adage that cir­cu­lates around the Democrat­dom­i­nated Capi­tol: “The Repub­li­cans are the op­po­si­tion, but the other house is the en­emy.”

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