Editorials

A user’s guide to Sacramento for newbie legislators

Democratic state Sen. Ben Hueso, left, walks out of the Sacramento County jail in Sacramento on Aug. 22. Hueso was booked after being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more.
Democratic state Sen. Ben Hueso, left, walks out of the Sacramento County jail in Sacramento on Aug. 22. Hueso was booked after being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more. The Associated Press

The well-scrubbed class of 2014 is preparing to take its rightful place among the legislative greats, the back-benchers and the ones who wish they could be forgotten.

As The Bee’s Jeremy B. White wrote on Monday, 72 of the 120 legislators will arrive having two or fewer years of state experience. The newbies will go through ethics training and learn how bills become laws. In that spirit, we offer a few do’s and don’ts, a user’s guide to the ways of Sacramento.

It’s simple, really. Don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t want to appear on the front pages of The Sacramento Bee, the Ventura Star or Eureka Times-Standard. This generally entails avoiding getting your name in the police blotter, which generally entails avoiding overindulgence.

Check out all that Sacramento has to offer. The steak and onions at Fat’s is a classic. The martinis can be quite nice, too. But if you have a second or a third, call a cab or Uber or the sergeants.

You vote on the Highway Patrol’s budget, and the officers’ political action committee may donate to your campaign. But chippies are perfectly willing to pull you over for swerving. You will be “truly and profoundly sorry.”

Don’t drink in the Capitol. If you do, don’t drink on the balcony off the Assembly chambers. If you do, don’t let a friend take photos. If that friend takes a photo, do not let her post it on any social media platform.

Make sure you don’t talk about conquests, real or imagined. Definitely do not talk about them while you are in a committee room with a hot microphone. You will be deeply saddened about your inappropriate comments and may decide to resign.

Try to live in the district you represent. If you can’t live in the district, make sure to water the plants and collect the flowers that admirers have left at the doorstep of your stunt townhouse. If you can’t do any of that, make friends with your local district attorney.

If anyone with a crustacean-based nickname asks for a favor, politely decline, and walk away quickly. Don’t carry gun control legislation while running guns on the side.

We understand that you all want to carry Hollywood legislation. If you do, don’t urge studio owners to hire your kids. If a tuition bill is coming due, don’t accept cash from anyone, including people on whose behalf you are carrying legislation.

If you use campaign money to buy gifts, make sure the label does not say Louis Vuitton. Better yet, give them handmade holiday cards.

Understand that the money you raise for your campaigns is not yours to spend on wine, spa treatments and mad weekends in Vegas. If you must spend lavishly, understand that Jeremy B. White or some other reporter will write about it, and not in a way that makes you look like a leader.

Yes, lobbyists laugh at your jokes. But you have not suddenly become George Carlin, Richard Pryor or even Tosh simply because you’ve won an Assembly seat. This may sound harsh, but lobbyists and their clients don’t give you gifts because they actually like you.

Legislative staffers help you with policy; they’re good at that. But don’t ask them to take care of your dry cleaning, and definitely don’t come to your apartment door half-dressed. No one needs to see that.

We offer these suggestions because we want you to succeed. We believe your predecessors might have benefited from these helpful pointers. A final suggestion: You might think this is a little self-serving – maybe it is – but always return reporters’ calls.

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