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E-171 - Saturday, September 14, 2019
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IN TODAY'S NOONER:
Yesterday was the strangest day in the Capitol in my 25 years around here, and I've seen speakership fights, 9/11, a Governor recalled, a truck ramming in to the south side of the Capitol, and major policy drama.
It didn't start out that way. Considering it was the last day of the legislative year, some were surprised by the late start times of the two houses, 10:30am for the State Senate and 12 noon for the State Assembly. But as we talked about yesterday, that was driven by the list of when the bills amended on Tuesday could be heard.
Rumors were that the last two 9pm bills might be two-year bills and already fatigued members, staff, lobbyists, and media were thinking that business could be completed on time. Many told spouses that they would be home relatively early.
There was a bout of name-calling on the floor of the State Senate shortly after it convened at 10:30, leading to caucuses. The testiness came earlier in the session than veteran observers would have expected, but the body got back to work shortly. One of the first bills taken up was Monique Limón's (D-Santa Barbara) AB 539 to regulate the interest rates on short-term consumer loans ("payday" loans). We talked about that yesterday in the context of Pro Tem Toni Atkins's bill to maintain California environmental, public health, and labor standards through the Trump Administration (whether or not he is re-elected). Limón was reportedly wavering on the bill despite a strong environmental record, as she looks to a likely run for SD19.
However, the State Senate quickly passed Limón's bill on a 30-6 bipartisan vote, leading observers to cock their heads to the right and say "Huh." Limón appeared to have said she was voting for Atkins's bill and the widespread rumors were not correct or that she felt her concerns had been addressed.
The Senate continued on with business until the Assembly began session at noon. They took lunch breaks, allowing us to get out of the building to fuel up for a session that we thought might be out in time for a late dinner.
By mid-afternoon, folks were pretty certain SB 1 was going to be a two-year bill addressed in 2020 following a meeting between Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate President Pro Tem Atkins, and Speaker Anthony Rendon. The amendments taken on Tuesday did not satisfy concerns of many water and ag interests pushed by Senator Feinstein, four Valley House Democrats, and several legislative Democrats. Some advocates on both sides of the bill left in time to be home for dinner.
If you are eating, you may want to read this part a bit later.
At 5:14pm, a "guest" in the gallery among the anti-vaccination protestors that have headlined the last two weeks of session shouted "This is for the dead babies" and threw what appeared to be human blood in a menstrual cap onto the Senate floor, hitting several members and their desks. Forty-three year old Rebecca Dalelio from Boulder Creek near Santa Cruz was taken into custody. The CHP initially said it was blood as the senators hit with the substance were seen by the Capitol nurse.
Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) tweeted a photo this morning, typing "A couple hours of sleep since our Senate adjournment around 3am and I’m at a doctors appointment to follow safety protocols from blood exposure. Still absorbing it all. But as my hat says Relax! Thankful that none of my Senate colleagues appear hurt and we finished our work."
The anti-vaccination social media universe is spreading fake news that the Dalelio was a plant by supporters of vaccinations, something that has no bearing in truth. She was sitting with them, they knew her, and her Facebook page has many posts in the category of anti-vaxx previous to yesterday. Dalelio was booked on five counts of assault and other crimes including disrupting Capitol business. She could also be subject to civil liability for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The affected area was cordoned off with crime scene tape and the question became when and where would the State Senate reconvene. After two hours of waiting with both houses on recess and on somewhat of a lockdown, it was determined that the Senate would reconvene in Room 4203, the Senate's largest committee room, familiar to many of you homegamers as the room with the colorful mural behind the dais.
The room was last used after January 16, 2001 during the presidential inauguration week when a suicidal truck driver drove his truck at high speed down 11th Street and rammed the south face of the historic Capitol. That was before the security screening that we have now, and of course eight months later, the way security was thought of changed across the nation. There are now security bollards and decorative fencing around the Capitol.
A former GOP State Senate leader who was in his office the night of the truck crash said that nothing he has seen is crazier than what has been happening at the Capitol this year.
The only must-pass thing outstanding at the time of the drama was AB48, the proposed $15 billion bond for Pre-K through university that we've been talking about this week. If it wasn't passed with a two-thirds vote in both houses before adjourning for interim recess, it would not make the March 3 ballot. Sure, lobbyists will talk about must-pass bills last night, but from my observations, that was the only real one.
Just after ordering my dinner, it was announced that they would indeed reconvene at 8:15pm in Room 4203. I knew it was unlikely that they would actually gavel in on time as Senators made their way to a room where they are unaccustomed to sitting in the audience section except for the first row, normally reserved for members presenting bills for committee hearings. Members were allowed one staff member with them on the first floor (staff sitting in back), members sat in the front section of rows. Press were allowed in the balcony section for the room, which is on the fifth floor. Lobbyists and other interested parties gathered on the fourth floor and observed the session on television monitors. The session was live-streamed on the Internet.
Things started out well with the Atkins and Senate Republican Leader giving a rare joint "welcome" to the reconvened session, expressing condemnation for the assault and disruption and stating that such tactics would not deter them from doing the people's business. Senators seemed in a shocked but somewhat jovial mood. They had spent a couple of hours largely on lockdown in their caucus rooms for security purposes, so they had time to get past the initial shock while Senate decided how, when, and where to reconvene for necessary business.
Since the last temporary necessary relocation of session eighteen years ago, the Legislature has constitutional rules to follow about transparency and the vote-tracking and many previous analog functions have become digital, so the logistics were complicated. Nevertheless, the necessary administrative staff had computers set up and file boxes ready to go by 8:15, awaiting senators to continue on with business. Once things were rolling, if you were watching the stream or sitting in the room with your eyes closed, audibly it sounded like a normal last night of a legislative year. Sometimes smooth and sometimes hectic. Senator Steve (D-Gardena) presided for most of the session and did a fantastic job amidst the usual confusion for such a legislative day.
Lots of bills were dispensed with and as often happens on the last night of either budget deadline or legislative year, the "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" game of managing the traffic flow to ensure neither house has an upper hand.
The school bond easily passed on a bipartisan vote. There were a mix of very partisan votes and those unanimous or near-unanimous.
But then we heard that the Assembly was taking up Atkins's SB 1, thought to be a two-year bill. As I wrote above, many of the advocates on both sides of the bill had long since gone home, expecting to tackle the issue in 2020. The bill passed the Assembly 48-22 on a party-line basis, with 9 members not voting. The bill would be coming over to the State Senate.
Meanwhile, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) was fighting for his SB 58, a bill that's been introduced the last couple of sessions to extend alcohol sales "closing time" from 2am to 3am for select cities (mostly convention destinations), if they chose to use the authority and with various approvals by the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Alcoholic Beverages Control. He had gotten it to Governor Brown as an extension to 4am last year, but it was vetoed. This year's bill was emerged to the floor after the Assembly Appropriations Suspense File as an extension for those select cities to 3am.
He was working it hard, spending much of the late evening and early morning a floor down in the back of the Assembly twisting arms. As the mood in the Senate pseudo-chamber grew more snarky around 1:45am, the joke on the floor was whether there was some way they could get Wiener's bill enacted immediately so they could have a nightcap when the session was gaveled out. Alas, that couldn't happen and members were largely confined to the floor except for a couple of short breaks.
Wiener's bill, the more restrictive version of the one approved 51-25 on the Assembly Floor last year but vetoed and only needing 41 votes in the Assembly surprisingly failed on a 29-35 vote. There are two explanations that come to mind. One is that there are more mothers in the Assembly this year with young children. The other is that Assemblymembers felt he overextended them this year, particularly on the controversial housing density bill. Even though it never made it to the Assembly (held in Senate Appropriations), members were asked by media and constituents their position, which was a policy pickle.
Given a veteran of many overnight sessions before the constitutional changes to the budget process, I'm sure plenty and staff and lobbyists were boozing it up in various offices. Members scurried for cold pizza and played games on their phones during many of the pauses in action as they awaited bills from the Assembly. At one point, senators jokingly challenged frosh senator Andreas Borgeas (D-Fresno) for eating pizza in their presence (he didn't bring any for them), arguing that the area they were sitting in was technically the Senate Chamber where food is prohibited. Senators watched videos of their kids sent from home. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), the author of the vaccination bills, spent much of the downtime liking and retweeting posts on the topic.
Interesting stories emerged from the Assembly side of the house that were shared on Twitter and text message being read by Senators and the rest of us in the temporary Senate chamber. One of the most interesting was AB 170 (Gonzalez), the "trailer" to her AB 5 on employment categorization following the California Supreme Court's decision in Dynamex. As the author of AB 170, Lorena presented the bill to the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. While introducing it, she made it clear that she hated the bill and would not be voting for it. The bill does one thing--it exempts contract newspaper distributors from the Dynamex ABC test for one year.
Newspapers had run editorials arguing that the bill would treat the people who deliver physical papers in the morning as employees and put newspapers out of business. Lorena doesn't personally agree with many of the exemptions in her AB 5 and was pissed with the last-minute "sky-is-falling" editorials from newspapers who are usually her allies on other issues relating to employment. It was personal and indeed she voted no in both Asm Labor and on the Assembly Floor. The bill previously had been presented to the Senate by Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) who showed similar frustration and made it clear that the bill was to give newspapers one year to figure things out but the current employment structure for carriers would not be tolerated thereafter.
I don't remember when a member has voted against their own bill except for the purpose of creating a conference committee.
AB 170 passed the Assembly Floor 66-6 on concurrence and went to Governor Newsom.
The below writing on ACA 14 identifies it being on the subject of affirmative action, but the proposal is relating to the University of California's contracting out practices for support services jobs.
As the clock droned on past midnight, there were two major pieces. SB 1 was "on call" in the Assembly as the Senate continue to hold on to a couple of bills that weren't getting sufficient votes, ACA 14 (Gonzalez) and AB 1066 (Gonzalez). The first is a proposed constitutional amendment to change Proposition 209 to allow the reinstatement of affirmative action for non-teaching support staff at the University of California. After the success of AB 5, the constitutional amendment was the top remaining priority for the powerful Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The other bill of Lorena's sought to allow union employees on strike to receive unemployment insurance, a perennial fight.
While ACA 14 needed 27 votes, it was widely expected to pass with 29 Democrats currently seated in the Senate. After all, it's an easy vote even if a member is wary of the underlying policy. It's asking the voters whether they'd like to revisit that portion of Proposition 209 adopted by the voters twenty-three years ago in a very different political environment. ACA 14 only received 23 "aye" votes and not the supermajority of 27 needed. The Dems who did not vote include many labor-friendly liberals. The University of California was opposed to having such a high-profile issue on the ballot in March with the education bond, and there top voice at the end of session was former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who is now chair of the Board of Regents. He assured Democrats that UC would handle it administratively, but the Senate votes for ACA 14 were there in the morning. Something changed.
AB 1066 certainly had moderate Democrats not willing to vote for it, but it only needed 21 of the 29 Democrats. It failed 19-14. Both ACA 14 and AB 1066 were granted reconsideration for next year.
Like Wiener's SB 58 on the extended alcohol sales in select cities, observers believe that the tenacious and very effective Gonzalez had over-extended them on the contentious AB 5. Most people expect the entire issue to be re-opened next year, but Lorena's supporters in labor made AB 5 a required affirmative vote. That made members vote for a bill seen as "picking and choosing" winners and losers based on job sector, something Republican members rubbed in their face on both AB 5 and AB 170. AB 5 had already been sent to enrollment on its way to the governor and AB 170 was following it. Dem senators could point to UC's opposition and commitment to implement hiring practice changes without a constitutional amendment by doing it administratively. But, like with AB 1066, it was widely seen as a personal push back on Lorena's aggressive agenda. Lorena is widely expected to continue to be Appropriations chair next year with significant influence on which Senate bills move forward. Don't think that today's early morning actions will be forgotten.
The story is just beginning but we need to pay bills...
Back to SB 1, Atkins bill that I have referred to as the "Trump Defense Act," and which is on the front page of the New York Times website this morning. It also made NPR's morning rundown of top stories that I heard while making my much-needed coffee after a couple of hours of slumber. It came over to the Senate and led to a predictably partisan debate. While no Democrats spoke against the bill, body language signaled that the concerns of Senators Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) and Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) about the effect on voluntary settlement agreements for delivery of ag water had not been addressed. As I wrote yesterday, some water interests had pulled their opposition going neutral after Tuesday's amendments, but the biggest water players were still very opposed.
I don't have the final vote because of last night's disarray. My notepad has 25-14 with Scott Wiener not voting (he was pushing the alcohol bill in the still-running Assembly), but votes from the Senate are not posted as of this writing.
But, what exactly happened between the reported agreement by the "Big Three" (Newsom, Atkins, and Rendon) and 2am?
I've written about the tensions between pro-SB 276 (vaccinations) legislators and Governor Newsom. There are two versions of the story of when Newsom's second round of amendments were requested--before or after Assembly Appropriations. To ensure a signature on SB 276, SB 714 was a gut-and-amend to address Newsom's concerns. Both are now law, yet opponents have requested a title and summary for a referendum on the two bills. (Anti-vaxx leaders are debating litigation vs. referenda.)
Fair or not depending on whose version you believe, there are hard feelings about the Governor's "inconsistent" position on vaccination medical exemptions and a feeling that he ordered the California Highway Patrol to treat the anti-vaxx protestors with kid gloves (which I confirmed with several officers who said their instructions were from the "very top."
The CHP Commissioner was in the Governor's Office suite ("The Horseshoe") yesterday afternoon and it is true the officers have been far more tolerant of the protestors behavior that would have had students or Black Lives Matter protestors arrested. Trust me, I've run large marches of community college students. The 7 arrests Wednesday were because protestors were blocking the underground garage. While many legislators parked at the Hyatt, there wasn't a secure way to get the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Senate Pro Tem, and Speaker into the building.
Senators of both parties I talked to including those on both sides of the vaccinations debate spoke of their frustration of the Governor's inconsistent involvement on the bill and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom's apparent support of the protestors (echoed in signs and chants at the Governor's Office door). There are theories about the First Family's religion and kids vaccination status, but I don't touch those issues.
That was brewing over the last week and then the incident at 5:14 happened. Fair or not, legislators partially blame the Governor and First Partner for the continued protests that have repeatedly interrupted legislative business even after the bills were signed into law and it was past the deadline by which legislators were required to amend bills. That narrative led to Democrats unexpectedly bring up and approve SB 1, thus putting the Governor in the position of siding with environmental versus Central Valley water interests. With Feinstein or against Feinstein (and four Valley House Democrats whose request may have been privately echoed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is concerned with three seats held by Costa, Cox, and Harder).
Unless there is some secret backchannel that nobody knew about as the votes came down, it's a classic "jam" of the governor, a political pickle in a bill he tried to keep off his desk until the gap between enviros and water interests could be filled.
When the gavel of the Senate session came down at 2:53am with the Assembly adjourning shortly thereafter, aside from the above one big question was left--what happened to SB 54 (Allen) and AB 1068 (Gonzalez), the similar bills to reduce single-use plastics by 2030. The bills were hard-fought to the end by both sides, but few people thought that the extended clock on this year's legislative activity without action by the supermajority Democrats on simple-majority vote bills.
Members were exhausted. There wasn't a clear side one way or another from the Governor's Office whether he would sign or veto was sent to him. Some time after the 5:14pm incident leading the Senate to relocate, Democrats had decided to the Governor with SB 1, increasing the likelihood of a veto on the plastics bills, and I think that is why they kicked it to next year.
Policy, politics, and personalities are not separate silos, particularly on the last night of a legislative year as crazy
Friday the 13th. A full moon. A palindromic date. You can't make this up.
Lots more happened, but this story needed to be told and I'll be in your inbox again tomorrow.
CAKEDAY and CLASSIFIEDS after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to David Balla-Hawkins, Omega Brewer, Alex Correa, Bernice Creager, Gordon Hinkle, Matt Klopfenstein, and Ray LeBov!