Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Monday, Jul. 7, 2014 – 12:00 am

At any given moment, dozens of comatose bills float around the Legislature – vessels to be filled with whatever the powers-that-be want to enact quickly and semi-clandestinely.

A journalistic wag once dubbed them “mushroom bills” because they grow in the dark, nurtured in excrement, and sprout just long enough to be passed, sometimes within hours.

They often pop up as “trailer bills,” so named because they supposedly implement the state budget. But it’s a common – albeit unethical – practice for legislators to load them up with stuff that has little or nothing to do with the budget and get them passed quickly before opposition develops.

This year was no exception as new issues surfaced in budget trailer bills.

One, giving the state Coastal Commission the power to levy fines, had been rejected by the Assembly but was enacted anyway by making it part of a trailer bill. Another – clearly a sop to the California Teachers Association – limits financial reserves in local school districts, thereby putting more money on the table for negotiations.

And so forth.

On June 15, 1999, a comatose bill was amended to declare that hundreds of thousands of hitherto independent home care aides for the aged and infirm in a program called In-Home Supportive Services would become public employees and thereby subject to union representation.

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