Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 – 12:00 am
Last Modified: Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 – 6:24 am

When the Legislature’s 2013 session began nine months ago, a giant question mark hung over the Capitol.

What would be the effect of having so many new members – nearly half of the Assembly – and of new districts created by an independent commission for the first time, of the first-ever use of a top- two primary election system, and of having two-thirds Democratic supermajorities in both houses?

We now know the answer: Unions, particularly those representing public employees, tightened their already strong grip.

Dozens of measures that unions wanted to enhance their members’ incomes, fringe benefits, bargaining positions and procedural rights were enacted, albeit not always as extensively as they wished.

Just as consistently, legislation that unions opposed fell by the wayside, even when it had broad public support, or even when Gov. Jerry Brown, their on-again, off-again ally, wanted it. An overhaul of the California Environmental Quality Act was the most conspicuous example.

Two bills, both dealing with sexual abuse of children, illustrate the syndrome.

Lawmakers pushed to pass Senate Bill 131, inspired by scandals in the Catholic Church, to open a new window to allow victims of sex abuse to sue employers of their alleged abusers.

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