Dan Walters

Dan Walters: Republicans often find their bills hijacked by Democrats

Dan Walters
Dan Walters

The state Assembly – with flowery paeans to patriotism – passed a “house resolution” Thursday commemorating Independence Day.

One wouldn’t think that a resolution marking the Fourth of July would have a partisan backstory. But it does.

Except for changing the date and one number, House Resolution 36’s lengthy language is identical to House Resolution 21, which was passed a year ago.

And therein lies a tale.

Last year’s tribute to Independence Day was introduced by Republican Assemblyman Eric Linder of Corona, but at the insistence of the Assembly’s Democratic leaders, it was amended to make Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, a co-author.

Quirk-Silva won her Orange County seat in 2012 by narrowly defeating a Republican incumbent in a district generally regarded as pro-GOP. She faces a very tough re-election battle, and her partisan colleagues want to help her return.

This year, Quirk-Silva introduced House Resolution 36, which copies – plagiarizes? – the language from Linder’s 2013 measure, so she’ll get full credit for election-year patriotism.

It’s obviously a small matter, but it exemplifies a long-standing practice – majority Democrats taking over Republican bills that might have political heft.

Last year, for example, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, introduced a bill for money to repair beaches in Port Hueneme. It made it through the Assembly, but Senate leaders blocked it, and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, carried a similar measure to enactment.

When a first-term assemblyman, Oceanside Republican Rocky Chavez, introduced a bill to help returning veterans transition into civilian life (Chavez is a retired Marine colonel) it died in the Assembly Veterans Committee. A similar measure by Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, was substituted.

Fox is another first-term Democrat who won in a GOP-leaning seat in 2012 and, like Quirk-Silva, faces a tough re-election campaign.

Speaking of measures involving Fox, GOP Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, devoted months to fashioning a tax break to help California win a big chunk of a pending Air Force bomber contract. Democrats blocked his measure in the Senate Appropriations Committee, however, and Fox was tapped to carry the subsidy bill that suddenly surfaced last week.

Usually, Republicans accept such maneuvers stoically. Knight said nothing about it when the bill reached a Senate committee on which he sits, other than to urge approval, and later presented it on the Senate floor.

However, when the Fox bill was pending on the Assembly floor, GOP leader Connie Conway referred to the hijack obliquely, reminding colleagues that Knight had “put in countless hours” on the issue.

Republicans are often rapped for not fully participating in legislative efforts, but when they do, they often become hijack victims.