Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Friday, Sep. 9, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Friday, Sep. 9, 2011 – 12:10 am

The Capitol – especially during the last, hectic days of any legislative session – is a bottom-line kind of place.

Its occupants, whether legislators or lobbyists, are entirely focused on passing, defeating or amending bills.

They respect those most adept at pulling legislative levers to reach their goals, and disdain those who complain about process.

They practice, in other words, the adage attributed to Otto von Bismarck that “laws are like sausages; it’s better not to see them being made.”

One doesn’t have to be naive or squeamish, however, to be appalled at how the Legislature ignores its own rules and common sense as it enacts potentially far-reaching legislation in the session’s final hours, mostly to benefit those with political pull.

This week, we have seen a particularly heavy load of what have been dubbed “mushroom bills” – grown in the dark in a bed of manure. Suddenly, a bill that’s languishing is pulled up, its contents are stripped, an entirely new bill is inserted and the measure is rushed through both houses.

Last Friday was supposed to be the deadline for such maneuvers, but they are continuing right up to the session’s last day, such as Gov. Jerry Brown’s new tax scheme that undoes a corporate tax change made just two years ago.

Lobbyists scramble to figure out what’s happening and why. Reporters track down rumors as legislative committees stage quickie meetings to stuff political sausage into legislative casings.

Not surprisingly, many last-minute bills are drafted to repair errors, or changes of political mind, in previous measures that themselves were written and passed in haste, particularly those attached to the state budget.

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