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Summer Recess

E-211 - Monday, August 5, 2019

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  • KQED'S Political Breakdown Podcast (Marisa Lagos and Guy Marzorati): Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) (2019-08-01)
  • Look West Podcast (Assembly Democratic Caucus): Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath and Carlsbad City Councilmember and 3x Women’s World Longboard Surfing Champion, Cori Schumacher, discuss equal pay for equal play, and why gender pay inequity is still an issue in the world of sports (2019-07-23] [Look West | iTunes | Google Podcasts]
  • Force of Law Podcast (Laurel Rosenhall @ CalMatters): episode four - "at the risks officers face on the job and why many in law enforcement say the final version of a bill to curb police shootings no longer puts them in greater danger" (2019-07-20)
  • KQED'S Political Breakdown Podcast (Marisa Lagos and Guy Marzorati): Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) (2019-07-18)
  • Gimme Shelter Podcast (CalMatters's Matt Levin and LAT's Liam Dillon): earthquakes and housing (2019-07-18)
  • SacTownTalks by The Nooner (Gibran Maciel and Scott Lay): Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis (D) (2019-07-17) [YouTubeSimplecast | iTunes


  • Seven bills in seven days - AB 719: Endangered wildlife: crocodiles and alligators. - fascinating issues of legislative rules and collegiality beyond just policy
  • Cakeday   

SacTown Talks by The Nooner

Note: I'm really not done on AB 719, but I'm running way behind schedule after more than ten hours of research, conversations, and writing on this the below issue. I welcome your feedback, beg your forgiveness in advance if I go astray or have grammar problems below, and note that I will be writing much more on this topic. You know where to reach me. Even if you're not involved in the issue, you're going to want to pay attention because it will tell us a lot about rules and the personalities behind those who use them.

Happy Monday! That was a tough weekend. Indeed, Redrum Burger in Davis closed at 10pm last night for the last time at its freeway-offramp location. Following last month's closing of The Graduate, it's dual summertime blows that has removed to icons of the college town from the map. Both succumbed to redevelopment (not of the policy sense) rather than business conditions and may return elsewhere.

I know, it was a tough weekend for far greater reasons but I can find no words amidst a sunken heart from the tragic loss of human life. We've arranged a constitutional law professor who is a former Ninth Circuit clerk for an upcoming podcast to talk about California law and the Second Amendment.

We're on the home stretch of the first year of the two-year session. The Legislature returns Monday, August 12 and recesses on September 13 before returning January 6 for the second year of the term.

Bills that are in a fiscal committee, generally Appropriations, of either house need to be approved by August 30. While that is a Friday, the following Monday is Labor Day, meaning the Legislature will meet on Friday, August 30. Thus, both houses will likely "clear the suspense file" either Thursday, 8/29 or Friday, 8/30. While not required, the houses generally coordinate their schedules since each house at this point in the legislative year is in possession of the opposite house's bills. Basically, they show their cards at the same time, at least as to which bills will get a full floor vote in the opposite house.

If a bill has passed its house of origin and is amended in the second house, it needs to return to the house of origin for a concurrence vote.

Over the next week, I'll be covering a bill each day that I find interesting so that we can follow them through the remainder of the legislative year. Undoubtedly, this will not be the only content of The Nooner this week or over the next month, but hopefully is provides a subset of bills that can help illustrate the legislative process and players.

I have chosen bills to cover for a variety of reasons. A few are some of the highest stakes ones that I have written about extensively, such as AB 5 (independent contractors/Dynamex) and AB 1639 (JUUL/tobacco products), while I'll have others to be more illustrative of the legislative process, including how Schoolhouse Rock and legislative rules are thrown aside.

I have no financial interest an any of these bills and in many cases have friends on both sides.


AB 719 (Blanca Rubio and Gray): Endangered wildlife: crocodiles and alligators.

Location: Senate Appropriations
Hearing date: Not set
Vote required: Majority
Concurrence vote required? Yes

Summary: Extends the commencement of the prohibition of the importation, possession for sale, or sale of any part of the body of a crocodile or alligator for commercial purposes from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2025. The bill further provides that such products sold prior to January 1, 2025 must include a disclaimer stating "This product was made using materials that were sourced in full compliance with the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)."

Background: Prior to 2006, the importation of crocodiles and alligators was prohibited as part of Penal Code §653o, as part of a list of endangered or threatened species generally prohibited. Due to enhanced preservation and marsh management, the American Alligator was down-listed under both the federal Endangered Species Act and the international Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

With a push by then-Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco (D), in 2006 California adopted SB 1485, which removed non-endangered species of crocodiles and alligators from the general prohibition for commercial importation until January 1, 2010. California was the last state to remove its prohibition at the time and it was seen as a recognition of Louisiana's work on preservation and to support its farm-raised industry of the species for skin and meat.

In 2009, SB 609 extended the allowable importation of non-threatened species until January 1, 2015. In 2014, AB 2075 extended the allowable importation to January 1, 2020, which is why we see AB 719 this year, which will once again allow the importation of non-threatened alligator and crocodile species for another five years.

The full lists of support and opposition, prior to the latest amendments taken in Natural Resources and Water Committee which are not currently reflected in the bill, are included in the committee analysis (pp. 9-10).

Procedural background: This bill was introduced as a bill dealing with Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to prod budget deliberations on the topic and passed the Assembly as such. Following the Legislature's adoption of the budget by the Legislature, the "vehicle" (bill) was a "gut and amend" into a bill to extend the deadline for importation, possession for sale, or sale until January 1, 2025.

The initial June 20 language was the five-year extension, but the authors added the disclosure language to get the bill out of Senate Natural Resources and Water, which is language that was in another bill, discussed below. The July 9 committee hearing is illustrative of the complicated nature of the bill, which may seem simple on its face. The bill is presented on the hearing video at 1:50:24 and the discussion continues at 6:27:50. Yes, that's four-and-a-half hours later after amendments were worked on to mollify concerns of committee members.

As a gut-and-amend, AB 719 bypassed legislative deadlines after another deadline-extension bill, AB 527 (Voepel), was held in Assembly Appropriations Committee without a hearing under the chair's prerogative (rather than suspense). The reason the bill was keyed as fiscal and sent to Appropriations is the disclosure language added by Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife, which would require the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to hire wardens to enforce the disclosure requirement.

This raises the question of whether, should the bill pass the Senate, it is considered a "jailbreak" from Assembly Approps when it returns for a concurrence vote. A jailbreak is when a bill is rejected by a committee in one house and pops up in a bill ("vehicle") in the other house, usually after associated deadlines. Typically but not always, the two houses collegially observe and stop jailbreaks from proceeding. If AB 719 is approved in the Senate, it must go back the Assembly for concurrence in the amendments adopted in the Senate.

At that point, it will be up to Speaker Anthony Rendon and Assembly Rules to decide whether the bill is a jailbreak of AB 527 and whether the bill returns to either Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife or Appropriations under Assembly Rule 77.2. While 527 was approved by Water, Parks, and Wildlife on 4/27, it was a confusing hearing and chair Eduardo Garcia was not there as his father, who subsequently passed, was ill. That bill then went to Assembly Appropriations and after discussions to try to get the "moderate" opposition (discussed below) and supporters to agree on language were unsuccessful, Approps Chair Lorena Gonzalez held the bill without a hearing.

Proponents believe that, since Gonzalez used the new "chair's prerogative" rule and didn't hold a hearing, the gut-and-amend of AB 719 is not a jailbreak.

Proponents argue: There is sustainable domestic production of non-endangered species of the crocodilia order, including the American Alligator. By using technology such as RFID chips, a "chain of custody" can be used through technology developed since the discussions on lifting the state ban began as some of the crocodile and alligator species were down-listed. They argue that with the new disclosure language, consumer awareness of problems within the trade will be increased, encouraging buyers--retailers and end-users--to "look for the label."

Opponents argue: There are generally two camps of opposition. Some groups oppose the use of animal-derived products for all purposes, and they range from those who oppose any animal-derived products including human consumption to those that focus on "unnecessary" uses of animal products in such things as clothing and accessories. The other camp would be those who don't go as far and would be content if they see truly sustainable cultivation of such products.

I'll focus on the latter part of the opposition coalition as that's the more complicated in the legislation. While they don't oppose all commercial use of non-endangered sustainably raised species, the international trade in the order crocodilia is particularly hard to track. While an RFID chip could provide a chain-of-custody from farm-raised crocodilia, they argue, many products in the pipeline can be affixed with the label and the Department of Fish and Wildlife would have little ability to track a product such as a watch band back to its source.

Why the bill is Noonerifically interesting: I include the bill because it's one that seeks to circumvent the legislative process since AB 527 was held in Assembly Appropriations. The "chair's prerogative" rule is new this year and we don't know how that will be applied in gut-and-amends this year.

It is also clearly big stakes for the industry seeking it, as evident by the lobbyist employer "Protecting the Environments, Animals, Communities, and Habitats" (PEACH). Between 04/01 and 06/30, PEACH paid lobbyist Katherine Brandenburg $105,000 for advocacy on three bills--AB 527, AB 719, and AB 1260. AB 1260 (Maienschein) would also add species to prohibitions of importation and possession for sale--iguana, skink, caiman, hippopotamus, Teju lizard, Ring lizard and Nile lizard. While not endangered species, these are generally species that have skin closely resembling alligators and crocodiles. PEACH supports the first two bills and opposes AB 1260.

PEACH has a Washington, DC address and a Louisiana phone number. It's backers are likely the producing industry in the Pelican State, but are not required to be disclosed. Tracking campaign contributions are thus very difficult to track.

Brandenburg then subcontracted the work on behalf of PEACH with prominent lobbyists Chris Kahn and Paula Treat and another top firm Lang, Hansen, O'Malley & Miller. Much of the activity of this bill has occurred after July 1, meaning we won't see the full reports on the lobbying until after the legislative year ends on September 13.

There is a huge array of animal rights and environmental groups that oppose the bill. Some have contract lobbyists and very influential (famous) allies important to lawmakers. It's much more difficult to measure the influence of Hollywood celebs who might put in a call on an animal rights issue to a legislator, but it's up there with big money donated by proponents of AB 719.

What's next: The bill has not yet been set for Senate Appropriations. Since the bill is a Suspense File candidate, chair Anthony Portantino has significant latitude to hold the bill (with a majority of his committee) without an up-or-down committee vote. We saw that earlier this year with the housing density bill, SB 50 (Wiener).  If it does pass Senate Approps and the Senate Floor, then we look to Speaker Rendon and Assembly Rules to see how the new house rules landscape treats alleged jailbreaks.

#CAKEDAY after the jump...

Probolsky Research

#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to former Assemblymember Paul Fong, Sharon Hillbrant, Alyssa Mitchell, and Richard Rios!


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