Lawmakers soaked up the sun and applause at Labor Day picnics around California on Monday, a respite of friendly crowds before a final rush of legislating that begins Tuesday.
Four days remain before Friday’s midnight legislative deadline. Hundreds of bills await floor votes; lobbying is intense on multiple measures; and three of the Legislature’s four caucuses have picked new leaders or leaders-elect in recent days, possibly injecting a new dynamic into end-of-session negotiations.
Senate Bill 350 remains the most debated measure heading into the final week. The bill by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, and backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, aims to reduce motor vehicle fuel consumption and increase the use of renewable energy. After passing the Senate in June, the measure faces uncertain prospects in the Assembly, where more moderate Democrats representing inland districts have demanded changes.
“How do we do it right and do it smart?” Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, said in an interview Monday during the Sacramento Central Labor Council’s picnic at Raley Field, where hundreds of union members and their families turned out for a barbecue, speeches and the River Cats game. “There’s been some movement on it, but we still don’t have the full picture. Negotiations are still taking place.”
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Other major outstanding issues include legislation that would help clear a path for the unionization of child-care providers, a possible road-repair funding package and whether programs that serve nearly 300,000 people with developmental disabilities will receive more money, possibly from higher taxes. Tax increases would require two-thirds votes, meaning they would need the support of every Democrat and at least some Republican lawmakers.
State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the author of a health special session bill that would raise taxes on tobacco products, said he was “cautiously optimistic” it will pass before Friday’s regular-session deadline. Special-session work could extend into the fall, but there is little sign that will occur.
“There’s nothing that focuses the mind like a deadline,” Pan said at the Raley Field picnic. “We’re committed to making this happen.”
Cooper is among the Democrats who have publicly remained on the fence about SB 350. Cooper said he supports the goal of clean air, but said he wants assurances that the legislation will not saddle disproportionate costs on residents of his district and other inland areas.
Supporters and critics of the bill have piled on in recent days. Cooper noted the anti-SB 350 television ads and proponents’ efforts to enlist celebrities to their causes. Actress Halle Berry urged Cooper to support the bill during a Capitol visit last week.
The emissions measure was among about a hundred bills that underwent amendments, some significant, as lawmakers headed home for the holiday weekend. Some legislation has changed wholesale in recent days, a parliamentary maneuver known as gut-and-amend.
Floor files in both houses include about 350 Assembly and Senate bills in various stages of eligibility to be taken up for votes. At least a dozen of them need to meet two-thirds-vote thresholds.
Cooper likened the crush of bills during the Legislature’s final days to “drinking from a fire hose.”
Monday’s Sacramento picnic also featured federal and local politics.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, before throwing out the first pitch, lambasted the nearly completed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.
“You would think that this nation would write a trade deal that is for working people, not for Wall Street, not for those at the top, not for the Koch brothers,” Garamendi said to cheers.
Notably absent from Monday’s picnic was Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. Bera’s support for the trade deal has triggered criticism from union leaders and tens of thousands of dollars in TV ads against him. Bera’s office said the congressman was in Washington, D.C., to get answers to questions about the Iran nuclear deal, which is scheduled for a vote this week.
Also missing from Monday’s picnic were the public divisions of last year’s gathering after the ouster of longtime executive officer Bill Camp. Camp, out of the country last Labor Day, was at Raley Field on Monday, sporting suspenders that read “Solidarity Forever” and an “I Love Cuba” baseball hat.
Unions, he said, need to come out against a local task force’s recent recommendation that Sacramento raise its minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020, which he called inadequate.
“This proposal ... is the most horrendous anti-labor suggestion anybody’s made in this state” in decades, Camp said.