‘Re­sist’ ef­fort makes strides

A host of bills op­pos­ing Trump ad­vance, but not all that op­po­nents had pushed

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By Katy Mur­phy and Casey Tolan

In a su­per­charged year marked by hard-fought vic­to­ries on af­ford­able-hous­ing and cli­mate change, Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers pushed through a pas­sel of leg­is­la­tion to thwart ini­tia­tives from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion — but also dis­cov­ered that even their pop­u­lar re­sis­tance has lim­its.

Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tors passed a bevy of bills aimed at shield­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants from de­por­ta­tion while they’re at work, at school or even in po­lice cus­tody, and the anti-Trump “re­sis­tance” sent Gov. Jerry Brown bills to pro­tect cli­mate data from fed­eral cen­sor­ship, guard against a Mus­lim reg­istry and block fu­ture pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates from the Cal­i­for­nia pri­mary bal­lot un­less they re­lease their tax re­turns — a di­rect swipe at the pres­i­dent, who broke with tra­di­tion by keep­ing his se­cret.

But re­sis­tance pro­pos­als that spooked in­dus­try groups or raised alarms about cost — from in­ter­net pri­vacy to sin­gle-payer health care to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions — stalled in the Leg­is­la­ture this year, un­able to over­come pow­er­ful lob­by­ists in op­po­si­tion or skep­ti­cism from more mod­er­ate Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tors.

“It doesn’t seem to be about Trump as much as it seems to be about the way things have al­ways been around here. We’re still func­tion­ing in the same ide­o­log­i­cal world as we were be­fore,” As­sem­bly Speaker An­thony Ren­don, D-Para­mount, said in an in­ter­view shortly be­fore the Leg­is­la­ture ended its law­mak­ing marathon in the wee hours Satur­day.

A bill to pro­tect Cal­i­for­nia from the threat of rolled-back fed­eral reg­u­la­tions on clean air and wa­ter didn’t even get a vote in the As­sem­bly. Nor did Se­nate Bill 100, leg­is­la­tion car­ried by the Se­nate leader to gen­er­ate 100 per­cent of the state’s elec­tric­ity from clean-en­ergy sources by 2045. And the sweep­ing sin­gle-payer health care pro­posal to replace pri­vate health in­sur­ance in Cal­i­for­nia with a sin­gle, gov­ern­ment-run plan — in­tro­duced while Trump and Congress were try­ing to dis­man­tle the Obama-era Af­ford­able Care Act — stalled in the As­sem­bly this sum­mer.

Ex­cep­tional vic­tory

Law­mak­ers, strate­gists and ad­vo­cates noted that leg­is­la­tion af­fect­ing in­dus­try regulation, con­sumer costs — or both — is no­to­ri­ously tough to move in Sacramento, despite Cal­i­for­nia’s rep­u­ta­tion for lib­eral pol­i­tics. One no­table ex­cep­tion was this year’s vic­tory that ex­tended Cal­i­for­nia’s “cap-and-trade” cli­mate pro­gram through 2030, but its pas­sage re­quired ma­jor con­ces­sions to the oil and agri­cul­tural in­dus­try, sup­port from the Cal­i­for­nia Cham­ber of Com­merce, and the force of Brown — who per­suaded some Repub­li­cans to back it.

“Re­sis­tance to Trump is only one di­men­sion,” said Jack Pit­ney, a pro­fes­sor of gov­ern­ment at Clare­mont McKenna Col­lege. Just be­cause leg­is­la­tors pitch their bill as a way to stand up to the pres­i­dent, he said, “you can’t treat them sim­ply as an up or down vote on Trump.” And of­ten, he said, the votes have much more to do with the un­der­ly­ing pol­icy or leg­isla­tive horse­trad­ing.

Pit­ney said leg­is­la­tors needed to be care­ful not to let the re­sis­tance rhetoric over­power their abil­ity to get things done. “These folks have a state to run,” he said. “Law­mak­ers have to make laws and not just make state­ments about the pres­i­dent.”

In 2017, at least, they man­aged to do both. The Capi­tol’s anti-Trump move­ment has suc­cess­fully de­fined Cal­i­for­nia as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s main foil, said Rob Stutz­man, a Sacramento-based strate­gist and for­mer aide to Repub­li­can Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger who has been pub­licly crit­i­cal of Trump.

“The re­sis­tance got a lot done,” he said.

Some of the bills that failed, he said, were sym­bolic pro­pos­als that car­ried eco­nomic reper­cus­sions. One such ex­am­ple, he said, was a bill to block the state from do­ing business with any con­trac­tors who helped build a bor­der wall be­tween Cal­i­for­nia and Mex­ico, a bill he called “fraught with im­prac­ti­cal­ity.”

A raft of promi­nent en­vi­ron­men­tal bills aimed at de­fend­ing against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion passed the Se­nate but flick­ered out be­fore reach­ing the floor of the more mod­er­ate, business-friendly As­sem­bly.

Se­nate Bill 49 would have en­shrined fed­eral Clean Air Act pro­vi­sions into Cal­i­for­nia law, as a way to pro­tect against pos­si­ble dereg­u­la­tion by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. It “was op­posed by some of the same in­ter­ests that are em­brac­ing Trump’s roll­back at the fed­eral level,” said Kathryn Phillips, di­rec­tor of Sierra Club Cal­i­for­nia.

An­other bill that failed to gain trac­tion re­sponded to a Trump ex­ec­u­tive or­der opening the door for new off­shore oil devel­op­ment. Se­nate Bill 188 would have pro­hib­ited the State Lands Com­mis­sion from ap­prov­ing new leases for pipe­lines or other in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port new fed­eral oil and gas devel­op­ment off of the Cal­i­for­nia coast.

Sen. Han­nah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Bar­bara, the bill’s au­thor, said she saw its dead­lock as a sign of the in­flu­ence of oil com­pa­nies in the Capi­tol. Business in­ter­ests “have lob­by­ists through­out the build­ing at all times — and frankly the en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mu­nity just can’t keep up,” Jackson said. “The oil com­pa­nies are very pow­er­ful in this state … and they were adamantly op­posed to this bill.”

Se­nate Bill 100, which wasn’t specif­i­cally touted as Trump op­po­si­tion but would have com­mit­ted Cal­i­for­nia to gen­er­at­ing 100 per­cent of its elec­tric­ity with re­new­able en­ergy by 2045, faced the same fate, despite sup­port from celebri­ties like Bill Nye the Sci­ence Guy.

“You no­tice as we en­gage in this Trump re­sis­tance that some­how the loneli­est among all the bills we have been mov­ing are the en­vi­ron­men­tal and the clean-en­ergy bills — and those have seemed to meet the most re­sis­tance in this Leg­is­la­ture,” said Sen. Henry Stern, DCal­abasas, an en­vi­ron­men­tal law at­tor­ney who car­ried SB 49 with de León.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment “does not have a nat­u­ral, well-heeled lobby,” he said. “When there’s a lot of big in­ter­ests, it makes it a tough vote where you have to stand up to all these folks op­pos­ing it. It takes sort of a dif­fer­ent type of courage.”

Con­sumer groups be­moaned the death of a bill to pro­tect in­ter­net users from re­laxed fed­eral reg­u­la­tions on in­ter­net pri­vacy. The bill, As­sem­bly Bill 375, would have placed lim­its on how in­ter­net ser­vice providers could sell data on their cus­tomers — es­sen­tially re­plac­ing Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tions that were un­done ear­lier this year by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. It was op­posed by in­ter­net and tele­com com­pa­nies such as Com­cast, AT&T, Google and Face­book, who pre­fer looser reg­u­la­tions.

Tele­com’s in­flu­ence

Ernesto Fal­con, an an­a­lyst with the Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion, an in­ter­net rights group, said he thought the in­flu­ence of the tele­com in­dus­try — one of the largest cam­paign con­trib­u­tors — sim­ply over­pow­ered leg­is­la­tors’ de­sire to re­sist Trump. “These state sen­a­tors have a lot of con­stituents who will be ask­ing why they didn’t re­spond to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s as­saults on their con­sumer pro­tec­tion,” he said.

But many leg­is­la­tors were ea­ger to take aim at Trump on is­sues with­out business op­po­si­tion, pass­ing res­o­lu­tions, in­clud­ing one to af­firm the Paris cli­mate agree­ment that Trump jet­ti­soned. On Fri­day the Leg­is­la­ture also passed Se­nate Bill 149, which would re­quire pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to re­lease five years of tax re­turns in or­der to get on the Cal­i­for­nia bal­lot.

Some of the bills — such as the one aimed at pre­vent­ing the state’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in a fed­eral Mus­lim reg­istry — re­ceived broad bi­par­ti­san sup­port. But Repub­li­cans have com­plained that the re­sis­tance, on top of the state’s reg­u­lar business, has been a dis­trac­tion.

“There was cer­tainly a the­atri­cal el­e­ment to a lot we saw pro­posed this year,” said Assem­bly­man Kevin Ki­ley, R-Gran­ite Bay, “and it’s my hope that folks have now got­ten that out of their sys­tem.”

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