10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

If anyone can get a bill through a legislative committee, Capitol conventional wisdom holds, it’s the committee’s leader.

Tell that to Inland state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod.

Negrete McLeod’s bill targeting abusive nurses, dentists and others died Thursday in the nine-member Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, which she leads.

The bill got one vote — Negrete McLeod’s. One senator voted no and the rest abstained or were conveniently absent.

“I was surprised, but I wasn’t flabbergasted,” Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, said of the outcome.

The measure, backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, arose from an investigation by the nonprofit journalism project ProPublica. It showed how state regulatory boards were sluggish to act against nurses and other health workers accused of hitting patients, taking drugs and other wrongdoing.

Negrete McLeod’s bill, though, faced several powerful opponents, including the California Nurses Association and the California Dental Association.

“It died a painful death, but that’s OK,” the senator said later. “There are certain groups that can sway certain members. It doesn’t matter what party they are.”

Negrete McLeod said her bill may be back this year.

A SUPREME SCOLDING

Arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court is no picnic, a fact that Upland-based attorney Dieter Dammeier discovered firsthand last week.

Representing an Ontario police officer who sued the city after officials looked at personal — and salacious — text messages he sent over a work-issued pager, Dammeier was tasked with persuading the high court that the department’s search was an unreasonable invasion of his privacy.

Dammeier seemed to find some support from Chief Justice John Roberts, but had to endure intense questioning from Justice Stephen Breyer, who repeatedly asked Dammeier to explain how the department was supposed to determine how often officers were using their pagers for personal business without reading the messages.

Dammeier listed a series of alternative ways the department could have gotten the information, including asking the officer’s consent to read the messages.

“But your officers might say, ‘I don’t want to read these messages because they happen to be about the sexual activity of some of my co-workers and their wives and me,’ which happened to be the case here,” Breyer said.

“So far I listened to four things and I’m just being naive about it; I will read it more closely, but I don’t see why these four things are so obviously more reasonable than what they did.”

Walking down the court steps afterward, Dammeier, asked how the case had gone, replied, “It’s a tough crowd.”

ANIMATED ARGUMENT

Inland Rep. Mary Bono Mack is waging her re-election campaign in animation.

The Palm Springs Republican has released a series of cartoon ads lampooning her Democratic rival, Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, over his stance on the newly enacted national health care overhaul.

The novel ads come in an election season full of bizarre campaign spots — including the now infamous ads paid for by Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina, depicting Fiorina’s opponents as hot air blimps and demon sheep.

Bono Mack’s campaign maintains that her cartoons are working.

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