California Capitol

Capitol Alert
By Jim Miller
September 7, 2015

  • Several Sacramento-area Democratic lawmakers attend labor council picnic Monday
  • State Sen. Richard Pan says his tobacco tax measure has a chance
  • Hundreds of bills eligible for floor votes in Democrat-controlled Legislature before deadline

Lawmakers soaked up the sun and applause at Labor Day picnics around California on Monday, a respite of friendly crowds before a final rush of legislating that begins Tuesday.

Four days remain before Friday’s midnight legislative deadline. Hundreds of bills await floor votes; lobbying is intense on multiple measures; and three of the Legislature’s four caucuses have picked new leaders or leaders-elect in recent days, possibly injecting a new dynamic into end-of-session negotiations.

Senate Bill 350 remains the most debated measure heading into the final week. The bill by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, and backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, aims to reduce motor vehicle fuel consumption and increase the use of renewable energy. After passing the Senate in June, the measure faces uncertain prospects in the Assembly, where more moderate Democrats representing inland districts have demanded changes.

“How do we do it right and do it smart?” Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, said in an interview Monday during the Sacramento Central Labor Council’s picnic at Raley Field, where hundreds of union members and their families turned out for a barbecue, speeches and the River Cats game. “There’s been some movement on it, but we still don’t have the full picture. Negotiations are still taking place.”

Other major outstanding issues include legislation that would help clear a path for the unionization of child-care providers, a possible road-repair funding package and whether programs that serve nearly 300,000 people with developmental disabilities will receive more money, possibly from higher taxes. Tax increases would require two-thirds votes, meaning they would need the support of every Democrat and at least some Republican lawmakers.

State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the author of a health special session bill that would raise taxes on tobacco products, said he was “cautiously optimistic” it will pass before Friday’s regular-session deadline. Special-session work could extend into the fall, but there is little sign that will occur.

“There’s nothing that focuses the mind like a deadline,” Pan said at the Raley Field picnic. “We’re committed to making this happen.”

Cooper is among the Democrats who have publicly remained on the fence about SB 350. Cooper said he supports the goal of clean air, but said he wants assurances that the legislation will not saddle disproportionate costs on residents of his district and other inland areas.

To read expanded article, click here.