Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Deadline for Brown to take up tobacco bills

Gov. Jerry Brown will act on package of tobacco bills, including a measure to raise the smoking age to 21, today.
Gov. Jerry Brown will act on package of tobacco bills, including a measure to raise the smoking age to 21, today. AP

The California Legislature established some of the most strict tobacco regulations in the country in March.

Now the package of tobacco bills must clear one final hurdle before the end of the day: An unpredictable Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown’s position on the bills, which would raise the age for buying tobacco to 21, subject e-cigarettes to tobacco regulations and allow counties to impose their own tobacco taxes, among other things, remains unclear. History tells us he’s not afraid to shoot down legislation lawmakers widely support; Brown vetoed 103 bills that cleared both houses with a two-thirds vote or greater last year. When faced with a package of bills, he’s sometimes also fond of signing a few and rejecting a few.

The bills also face strong opposition from outside interests.

After the Legislature voted for the bills, a tobacco industry lobbyist threatened political retaliation. The lobbyist said the industry would launch a referendum campaign and corner the market on signature gatherers to block other unrelated initiatives from qualifying for the November ballot.

By law, a referendum process can only begin after Brown signs a bill. So, lawmakers elected to hold onto the bills for nearly a month and a half before sending the package to Brown.

The Legislature’s tactic allowed other ballot initiatives to continue to gather signatures without inference from the tobacco industry. A handful of ballot initiatives are still out collecting signatures, including campaigns to legalize recreational marijuana and increase taxes on tobacco sales.

The Governor had 12 days to act once lawmakers finally moved the bills to his desk. His deadline is today.

DREAM BUILDERS: Every year the California Chamber of Commerce introduces its “Job Killers” list, a controversial and highly effective strategy to shoot down bills business interests say will reduce employment in the state. Critics claim the list is little more than a marketing campaign to kill any legislation that requires corporations to treat workers better.

Today those critics are banding together to deliver what they call a “counter-punch” to the chamber’s list and highlight bills the group says will expand economic opportunities for California workers. Dubbed the “Dream Builders” list, the group says it will be the antithesis of the Chamber’s “list of cynical CEO priorities.” The coalition, which includes state chapters of SEIU, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, and others, also plans to unveil a “Dream Killers” list, calling out bills that make it more difficult for families and individuals to escape poverty.

The group is gathering at 11 a.m. outside the Capitol near the intersection of 12th and L.

RALLY: Advocates for the deaf community will gather at the Capitol today to call attention to discrimination in the workplace, and push for emergency video interpretation at hospitals and more funding for agencies that support California’s deaf population.

The rally is timed with similar events at state capitols elsewhere sponsored by the Deaf Grassroots Movement. The event kicks off at 9 a.m. on the south side of the Capitol.

STAND FOR CHILDREN: California Parents will descend on the Capitol today for the 20th annual Stand for Children Day, calling on the state to appropriate more funding for childcare programs. Parents will rally at 10:30 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol, followed by a march.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Track the funds outside interests are funneling into upcoming legislative races and potential California ballot measures with the Bee’s new mobile-friendly tool, the Money Trail. To have the day’s best California commentary delivered to your inbox, sign up for our new daily opinion politics newsletter, The Take.

CELEBRATE: Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, turns 57 today.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna