Editorial: Legislators try to cheat death by reanimating legislation

Published: Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 - 9:02 am

The Nightmare on L Street won’t end until well past the witching hour, and there is reason to be afraid, very afraid.

This is not a disaster of biblical proportions. Legislative sessions have ended far more perilously. But bills have risen through the gruesome process known as gut-and-amend in which mad legislators remove the innards of bills, stitch in new organs, and proclaim: “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

Other gremlins whistle past graveyards where they should have been buried long ago, such as Assembly Bill 1981 by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, a Southern California Democrat.

This pallid bust would allow an increase in rates charged to consumers who buy collision damage waivers, the insurance that rental-car companies sell in case you wreck one of their vehicles.

Consumer advocates question the wisdom of buying the insurance, contending the product is overpriced and offers ghostly coverage. An Assembly staff analysis of the bill noted that rental-car companies would not provide information about the profits they earn from the product. We are better off not knowing the truth, evidently.

Other bills that seemed dead a year ago have risen like zombies.

One is AB 1415, which, ironically enough, last year was intended to increase transparency in government rule-making. It seemingly died last August, but then Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, worked his magic.

The revived measure would help his painters’ union friends. It would ensure they will be the only ones who can apply anti-corrosive coatings to steel and concrete in public works projects, including work funded by the $7.5 billion water bond, assuming voters approve it in November. To breathe life into it, its co-authors include incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León.

Another bill that seemed to expire last year but was only mostly dead is AB 1759. In that earlier life, Assemblyman Richard Pan carried it and it had something to do with Medi-Cal. Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, snatched it and reanimated it on Aug. 18, transforming it into legislation that would allow strong mayors to serve on the California Coastal Commission. It seems intended to open the way for the Assembly to reappoint Robert Garcia, who had to step down from his Coastal Commission position when he was elected mayor of Long Beach in June.

Assembly Bill 837’s date of death was June 18, 2013, or so it appeared. Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Wieckowski, an East Bay Democrat, awakened it from its slumber three weeks ago.

An Assembly analysis says this undead bill would raise the pensions of seven judges who were elected in 2012 but didn’t take office until 2013, when less generous pension rules took effect.

Many more bills should have met the Grim Reaper long ago, like the demon that would haunt electricity ratepayers by requiring they buy pricey geothermal energy. We won’t know its fate, or ours, until after midnight Saturday, when presiding officers tap their gavels and mercifully declare nevermore.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board



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