Before leaving town, legislators dropped 250 bills on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, some of them significant, and many others tailored for interests whose money fuels campaigns. And they took actions that were utter wastes of time.
Yes, Donald Trump is a blowhard. But did Senate Democrats truly believe that spending time on the final day of the 2015 session approving a resolution denouncing Trump would do anything other than encourage him?
In several instances, their inaction reflected the power of money in politics. Bills to regulate e-cigarettes and raise tobacco taxes stalled, and legislators failed to approve portions of Senate Bill 350, which would have forced a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use by 2030. The oil and tobacco industries retain great clout, obviously.
As they do at the end of every legislative session, legislators gave speeches praising their accomplishments, and they did make strides.
Earlier in the year, they insisted that parents get their children vaccinated before sending them to public school. At the end of the session, they passed bills urging that employers provide gender-pay equity and greater family leave. The Legislature also approved giving terminally ill people the option of ending their lives on their own terms.
Brown is expected to sign the workplace measures and the remaining pieces of SB 350, which will require more energy efficiency and compel utilities to get half their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
The governor expressed reservations about having the death with dignity bill heard in a special health-care session. But we hope he allows it to be become law. The alternative would be an initiative, which might not be as well thought out as the legislation.
After two decades of gridlock, legislators approved some regulation of the medical marijuana industry. Because Brown brokered the three-bill package, we assume he’ll sign it. But the details of the bills did not become public until Friday, the final day of the session. That gives us pause.
Before adding costs and creating programs, legislators would do well to confront existing demands.
For all the legislators did, and they had a busy year, there is plenty left to do. Legislators failed to agree on how to fund road and bridge maintenance, one of the state’s more pressing needs.
Brown waited until the beginning of the month to offer his plan. No doubt, he had his reasons for releasing his 10-year, $37 billion proposal at the end of the session. But perhaps he would have had more success if he had floated it sooner.
Brown proposes modest tax increases of 11 cents per gallon on diesel fuel and 6 cents per gallon on gasoline. The taxes would be indexed to inflation, sparing future governors from having to fight the gasoline-tax battle repeatedly.
Vehicle owners, including people who drive electric vehicles, would pay an annual $65 fee. The governor also agreed to earmark some cap-and-trade money for roads, a significant compromise. A special session on transportation remains open. We hope legislators find a way to share the costs of roadwork. Potholes are, after all, apolitical.
Legislators also failed to extend a $1 billion-plus tax on managed-care organizations that will expire next year. The revenue helps pay for Medi-Cal.
Faced with a hole left by a soon-to-be-disappearing tax, Brown will be perfectly justified vetoing bills that he otherwise might sign if they come at a cost. That may not be a bad thing.
We can do without many of the 250 bills legislators approved in the closing days. Before adding costs and creating programs, legislators would do well to confront existing demands.