Capitol Alert

Capitol debates limited to one ‘outcome,’ GOP senators say

Se. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber talks about a drought bill before the Senate on Feb. 27, 2014.
Se. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber talks about a drought bill before the Senate on Feb. 27, 2014.

The whisper campaign usually sounds like this: Experts testifying on issues before state lawmakers do little more than reinforce the views of the party in power.

This year, that contention is being made more publicly.

On Tuesday, as legislators prepared for a budget hearing on Health and Human Services welfare programs, Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen and a pair of colleagues released a letter they sent to Senate Democrats airing concerns about the “clear tendency” for presenters to be “homogenous in their views.”

The grousing comes as lawmakers review an array of spending options thanks to an uptick in revenue. Joining Nielsen were Sens. Tom Berryhill and Jeff Stone.

“Discussions at public budget hearings should not be limited to one particular viewpoint or outcome,” the Republicans wrote, suggesting the names of four policy experts they believe could balance the debate. Last year, Republicans unsuccessfully sought to have fraud investigators testify at a food stamp hearing.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, was asked about the possible lack of diversity in chosen experts after Nielsen recently complained about agriculture representatives getting short shrift.

“All the hearings that we’re having up and down the state of California are to be fair hearings and give different perspectives,” De León said. “They are not predetermined ... where we already have an outcome expectation and everything else is just the supporting cast to validate that ... That doesn’t exist.”

Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.