Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
August 25, 2016 – 4:27 PM

As the Legislature begins the last few days of its biennial session, hundreds of measures are pending – not counting, of course, “mushroom bills” that will sprout in the dead of night and pass before anyone outside the Capitol can react.

Specifics of unsettled issues vary widely, but the overarching tenor of the Capitol is friction between the two houses.

While cross-Capitol rivalry often flares during the final days of any session, even though Democrats dominate both houses, this year’s version is particularly sharp.

In part, it’s institutional. The Assembly is becoming more assertive in challenging the Senate’s recent status as the more dominant house.

In part, it’s ideological, with a bloc of moderate, pro-business Democrats setting the Assembly apart from the more liberal Senate.

In part, it’s personal, with clashes of personality between the leadership cadres of both houses.

And in part it’s political, as subfactions of Democrats joust in this year’s elections.

Examples abound, such as details of legislation to reauthorize the campaign against carbon emissions. However, none is more obvious than a confrontation over what in past years has been a routine chore – authorizing the State Bar to collect dues from attorneys.

When a bar dues bill was taken up in the Assembly, it sparked a bipartisan demand to require reforms of the quasi-public agency that licenses and regulates attorneys and also serves as a trade organization for the legal profession.

A series of scandals and investigations revealed an organization mired in dysfunction, as even its executive director acknowledged at one legislative hearing.

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