October may be the month of ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggedy beasties for most of the country. But in the Capitol, the waning days of the legislative session are the scariest time of all.
It is when dead legislation comes back to life in strange and terrifying forms; when good bills are mutilated into monsters; and when powerful people embrace crazy ideas to nightmarish ends.
This year is no exception. Below are three examples of particularly horrific legislation that we urge the governor to stake through the heart should they somehow shamble into his office:
All praise the fearless leader
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Reasonable people can agree that the election of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States in 2008 was historic and a watershed moment for racial equality. Any teacher worth his or her salt would no doubt point that out to students in their American history classes.
But Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, seeks to write that into law with Assembly Bill 1912.
No legislative body – not even a school board – should be in the business of telling a teacher exactly how to teach a subject, especially when it comes with partisan overtones. That might be de rigueur in dictatorships where the fearless leader must be praised, but a free country must fight attempts at thought control.
Most frightening of all, this bill has no formal opposition. Even the California Teachers Association is supporting it, though the very idea must be repugnant to any teacher who values academic freedom.
The scarlet letter
Senate Bill 556 is an example of a deceased legislation rising from the grave. This labor-backed bill prohibits private contractors for public agencies from using the logos of the public agencies on vehicles or uniforms (think ambulances and emergency medical technicians) for which they work unless they also wear a disclosure that they are not public employees. It’s more camp than horror to imagine the uniform badges that might result from such rules.
Originally carried by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, in 2013, it languished until Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, decided to reanimate it this year. For what nefarious purpose, we can only guess. Padilla is running for secretary of state and will need the support of labor in a tough fight against Republican Pete Peterson.
The fifth circle of environmental review hell
The California Environmental Quality Act requirements are so oppressive to development that lawmakers regularly ease them for projects they favor. The Kings arena now under construction in downtown Sacramento benefited from such a bill last year.
Most people agree that CEQA, while good policy, needs some reforming. But the kind offered up in Assembly Bill 52 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, is not reform that improves the process. This bill would add more hurdles for development by including a new potential environmental impact to be mitigated – whether the project affects the “sacred places” or “cultural resources” of American Indian tribes. The definition is left so open-ended it would add a new layer of anxiety to what is already a horror movie of an environmental review process.
These are just three particularly gruesome bills slithering around the Capitol halls, but by no means the only monstrosities to be found this year. We haven’t even gotten to the Confederate flag ban, another bill meddling with history curriculum requiring students be schooled in various genocides from Rwandan to Armenian, and the stinker that is Senate Bill 1139 – the California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program. Stay tuned for Nightmare on L Street, Part 2.