California Ends Cash Bail For Pre-Trial Incarcerations

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies inspect a cell block at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says he plans to implement all the reforms suggested by a commission in the wake of allegations that a culture of violence flourished in his jails. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday that makes California to be the first state to abolish cash bail for pre-trial incarcerations.

Brown was surrounded by Assembly Speaker Rendon (D-Los Angeles), Senate President pro Tempore Atkins (D-San Diego), California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and others at the “SB 10: California Money Bail Reform Act” signing ceremony.

Brown described the new law, which takes effect on October 1, 2019 as establishing a pre-trial system that allows judges to determine a defendant’s custody status based on a non-monetary assessment of public safety risk and the probability of the defendant missing a court date. Brown added: “Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly.”

Each of California’s 58 counties will establish local agencies that will set up a criteria for low, medium and high likelihood of an individual arrested on felony charges showing up for court hearings or being rearrested if released on their honor, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Low-risk evaluations would result in release with the least restrictive nonmonetary conditions; medium risk terms would be determined according to local standards. But high-risk evaluations — those having previously violated conditions of release; having been arrested for a violent felony, or sex crime; having a third DUI within 10 years; or being already on probation — would not be eligible for pre-trial release.

Brown honored the pledge he made last year to work with the Democrat-controlled legislature and Supreme Court Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye to pass the reform before leaving office in January, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched its Campaign for Smart Justice last December to abolish money bail, which it considers a predatory system that allows people to sit in jail awaiting trial simply because they are too poor to afford the cost of their release.

The ACLU and California progressives pointed to bail injustices revealed in a New York City Criminal Justice Agency study that found non-felony conviction rates jumped from 50 to 92 percent for those jailed pre-trial, while the felony rate jumped from 59 to 85 percent.

But the ACLU announced on August 20 that it had changed its position and was opposed to the amended version of SB 10 with an overly broad presumption of preventative detention that “is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that the ACLU of California envisioned.”

The Times reported that Republican Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado Hills) said that eliminating bail would put a big financial burden on California’s 58 counties, and expects that SB 10 will be overturned in constitutional challenges in the courts.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye praised SB 10 as a “transformative day for our justice system” and thanked the “judges in my Pretrial Detention Reform Work Group to bring about a fair and just solution for all Californians.”

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Democratic Assemblywoman Cleared of Harassment is Still Not Out of the Woods

Cristina GarciaThe “Me Too” anti-sexual harassment campaign that quickly yielded several resignations by state lawmakers last fall appears to have hit a lull in Sacramento with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, now seemingly on track for re-election this November despite scandalous allegations. But new twists may loom.

Garcia, 40, appeared doomed to a primary defeat two months ago. She took a voluntary leave of absence after she was accused of groping a then-legislative staffer four years ago; making inappropriate comments to a lobbyist; playing “spin the bottle” with staffers; and of using racist and homophobic language. The perception that she was a weakened candidate led the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California – which supported her in 2014 and 2016 – to oppose her primary bid.

But between a preliminary probe finding no evidence for the most serious allegation against Garcia – that she groped a staffer – and the strong support of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, Garcia finished first in her June 5 primary. She got 29 percent of the votes to 27 percent for Republican activist Mike Simpfenderfer, a mortgage banker. The other five candidates in the race, all Democrats, split the remaining 44 percent of the vote.

Last week, however, saw two developments that suggested Garcia wasn’t out of the woods yet. The first came when the Assembly agreed to consider an appeal of its finding clearing Garcia of groping former legislative aide Daniel Fierro, who now works as a Los Angeles County political consultant. Fierro sought the appeal last month amid grumbling that the initial investigation of Garcia was released even though it was incomplete.

This concern may have been a factor in the second development: the call from two Democratic lawmakers for a much more transparent and responsive approach to allegations of misconduct involving state lawmakers and staffers.

Anti-gay, anti-Asian remarks could haunt Garcia

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, said existing efforts to respond to sexual harassment don’t go nearly far enough to take on a “toxic” culture in the Capitol. They proposeestablishing a new investigative unit that would focus only on discrimination and harassment complaints; would handle probes for both the Assembly and the Senate; and would rely on an independent committee of experts to recommend punishment for those found guilty of wrongdoing. Legislators, however, still would have the final say on what if any penalties were assessed.

But the Mitchell-Friedman proposal targets not just the behavior that Garcia has so far been cleared of but behavior of the sort the Assembly probe found she had engaged in: using homophobic slurs to describe fellow Los Angeles County Democrat John Perez, the Assembly’s first openly gay speaker, and of threatening violence against Asian-Americans after some Asian-American lawmakers balked at affirmative-action proposals that they thought would help some minority groups but not their own.

“The proposed policy … aims to spur a shift in how people in the Capitol community speak and act toward each other,” the Associated Press reported. “It encourages people to report minor incidents such as insensitive comments all the way through more aggressive acts of misconduct.”

Rendon’s decision to defend Garcia while still appearing strongly sympathetic to the Me Too movement has been complicated by comments that suggest he thinks Garcia’s larger record of legislative priorities and accomplishments should matter in judging her behavior. Similar suggestions made in defense of former President Bill Clinton and now-former Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, triggered a furious backlash.

Rendon entered this territory in April when he denounced the building trades unions for seeking to replace Garcia with other Democrats whom Rendon said would be more willing to challenge aggressive environmental policies touted by Gov. Jerry Brown and all the party’s legislative leaders. A spokesperson for the unions said their opposition to Garcia was prompted not by her strong environmentalism but by sympathy for her alleged victim and a belief another candidate would better reflect the values of the 58th Assembly District.

But Rendon rejected the claims in a blistering statement posted by the Sacramento Bee in which he called the unions’ maneuvering “a thinly veiled attempt by Big Oil and polluters to intimidate me and my members,” “ an affront to my speakership” and an “ill-advised political attack.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Another Democratic Assemblyman Abruptly Retires

Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas abruptly announced his resignation from the California Legislature on Wednesday, citing health reasons.

Ridley-Thomas, a Democrat from Los Angeles, informed Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) Tuesday night.

“The reason for this difficult decision is that I am facing persistent health issues,” Ridley-Thomas, 30, said in a written statement on Wednesday. “On December 18th, I underwent surgery for the fifth time this year. Although I expect a full recovery, my physicians advise that I will need an extended period of time to recuperate.”

Earlier this year, Ridley-Thomas was absent from work for more than two weeks. Staff members initially said the absence was a personal leave, then said the time off was due to unspecified medical reasons. His resignation letter on Wednesday offered no additional details. …

Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Times

Summer of discontent continues to rage for California progressives

In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, third from left, flanked by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, right, and other Democratic lawmakers, discusses a pair of proposed measures to protect immigrants, during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. California is among the states that voted for Hillary Clinton and that could find themselves at odds with President-elect Donald Trump on such issues as immigration, health care and climate change. Rendon said the intent of the legislation is to put a "firewall" around Californians. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The California progressive movement’s summer of discontent continues, with anger still on display over the abrupt withdrawal of a single-payer health care bill and over the May election of a party insider as California Democratic chairman.

This week, the Associated Press reported that progressives remain interested in pursuing a recall campaign against Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, (pictured) for his decision to kill Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act. Los Angeles activist Steve Elzie is a lead organizer.

The California Nurses Association last month paid for two mailers to be sent to constituents in Rendon’s Los Angeles County district blasting him for “holding health care hostage” and “protecting politicians, not people’s health care.” The mailers urged constituents to complain to Rendon’s offices over the decision, but did not advocate a recall.

That decision may reflect that CNA President RoseAnn DeMoro – who initially led the criticism of Rendon – has realized how difficult it would be to ultimately remove him from office.

Obtaining the 20,000-plus signatures needed to trigger a recall election might not be much of a problem, given that single-payer champion Bernie Sanders got 44 percent and 48 percent of the vote in the June 2016 Democratic presidential primary in California’s 38th and 47th Congressional Districts, respectively. The districts cover much of Rendon’s 63rd Assembly District district which includes parts or all of Commerce, Bell, Lynwood, Paramount and Lakewood.

But Rendon has gotten at least 69 percent of the vote in his three Assembly bids. He also has more than $1.2 million in his campaign war chest and has the support of other influential unions, meaning ready access to more donations and help campaigning.

Rendon killed SB562 because he said it failed to adequately identify how it would pay its $400 billion in annual costs to provide health care to every Californian.

‘Berniecrat’ still won’t accept loss in party chair vote

The other flap pitting the party establishment against “Berniecrats” also flared this week when Bay Area political organizer Kimberly Ellis launched a new salvo over her narrow loss for state party chairman to Eric Bauman, a nurse who has long been a fixture in Los Angeles County Democratic politics and was deputy to the last state chair, former Congressman John Burton.

At May’s state Democratic convention in Sacramento, Bauman held off a late surge from the lesser-known Ellis to win 51 percent to 49 percent. Ellis immediately challenged what she said were election irregularities, leading to a July recount in which 47 of about 3,000 ballots were thrown out but Bauman’s margin of victory was unchanged.

Ellis and her fellow Sanders’ supporters, however, still don’t accept the results.

On Tuesday, she called on the California Democratic Party to accept binding arbitration to determine who really won the May election. She hinted it was the only way the party could head off a lawsuit that she suggested last month was forthcoming if she were unhappy with how party officials handled her appeal, which continues this month with a hearing of the Democratic Party credentialing committee.

California Democratic Party spokesman Mike Roth said the party would stick to its rules, which don’t provide for arbitration.

“Ms. Ellis is now deep in her own end zone and throwing a desperate Hail Mary pass in hopes of changing the outcome of an election that she lost fair and square,” Roth said.

But Ellis’ “Vote for Kimberly” website remains unchanged and continues to feature sharp – if indirect – criticisms of Bauman for allegedly close ties to corporate interests.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Jerry Brown, California Legislature, Reach Cap-and-Trade Extension Deal

carbon-tax-1California Governor Jerry Brown announced Tuesday evening that he had reached a deal with both chambers of the state legislature to extend the Golden State’s “cap-and-trade” program beyond its original expiration date in 2020.

Brown, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced “a legislative package that will launch a landmark program to measure and combat air pollution at the neighborhood level – in communities most impacted – and extend and improve the state’s world-leading cap-and-trade program to ensure California continues to meet its ambitious climate change goals,” according to a statement released on the governor’s website.

The statement adds that the deal “includes AB 617 by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and AB 398 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and is the product of weeks of discussions between the administration and legislative leaders with Republican and Democratic legislators, environmental justice advocates, environmental groups, utilities, industry and labor representatives, economists, agricultural and business organizations, faith leaders and local government officials.”

The cap-and-trade system sets an upper limit for carbon dioxide emissions, and then issues emissions permits that can be bought and sold by producers. The system applies an effective tax on emissions (one that some businesses would prefer to leave the state to avoid). Companies that are more energy-efficient can sell their permits for profit — a model that Tesla, for example, has used to pad its bottom line.

The legislation will have to proceed in the absence of former Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who will be sworn into Congress on Tuesday — more than a month after winning a special election to replace Attorney General Xavier Becerra in the 34th congressional district. Gomez had delayed the ceremony partly to make his vote available for a cap-and-trade extension deal.

The deal, as noted by Bay Area public radio station KQED, will include provisions to allow local communities to monitor air quality and industrial air pollution, without allowing them to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Climate change activists often confuse the two phenomena, though one has little to do with the other: carbon dioxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is not harmful.

KQED adds that the deal also ends “a fire prevention fee largely paid by residents living in rural, Republican areas of the state.” That could indicate that Democrats struck an agreement with Republicans to vote for the bills.

Without Gomez, the Democrats will not have the two-thirds majority required to renew cap-and-trade without facing a state referendum. But with Republican votes, that obstacle will disappear.

Following last year’s passage of Proposition 54, which requires bills to be on public display for 72 hours before a vote, that could mean a vote on cap-and-trade could come as early as Thursday.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California 

California single-payer health bill shelved – for now

Pills health careSACRAMENTO – Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, an avowed supporter of single-payer health care, nevertheless announced last week that he was pulling the plug on a Senate-passed measure that would create such a system in California.

Rendon, who is holding the bill in committee, was only the proximate cause of AB562’s death. Its fate was sealed after a Senate floor analysis last month pinned its likely cost at $400 billion – more than three times the state’s entire general-fund budget.

“It didn’t make any sense,” Rendon recently told the Sacramento Bee. “It just didn’t seem like public policy as much as it seemed a statement of principles. I hope the Senate takes this chance to take the bill more seriously than they did before.”

According to its bill language, the Healthy California Act would “provide comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage and a health care cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state.” The measure would have tossed out California’s myriad systems of private, insurance-backed and government-funded health care and replaced it with a single, government-managed system run by a newly created state agency.

Such a massive change would demand volumes of detailed legislative language, yet the bill itself was remarkably brief and lacking in specifics. It even failed to include any explanation for how it would receive the necessary waivers from the federal government.

The Appropriations Committee analysis concluded the bill would lead to “increased utilization of health care services,” given that all residents would be free to “see any willing provider, to receive any service deemed medically appropriate by a licensed provider, and the lack of cost sharing, in combination, would make it difficult for the program to make use of utilization management tools such as drug formularies, prior authorization requirements, or other utilization management tools.” So all financial bets were off, given an expected – and probably massive – hike in demand.

To fund the $400 billion program, the Appropriations Committee concluded the state would have to raise about $200 billion in new tax revenues. That would mean a new 15 percent payroll tax, with no cap on the wages subject to the tax. Shifting any of those costs from taxpayers to enrollees would be impossible under provisions that prohibit “members from Healthy California from being required to pay any premium” or “from being required to pay any co-payment, co-insurance, deductible and any other form of cost-sharing for all covered benefits.”

State officials often argue about programs that spend millions of dollars, but had a surprisingly short debate about one that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. One reason that might be is that Gov. Jerry Brown already had expressed deep skepticism about the measure. “This is called ‘the unknown by means of the more unknown,’” he told reporters in March. It was unlikely he would have signed it, especially given his concern about creating new spending programs. Critics argue that the governor’s public views gave Democrats a free pass to vote for it and assuage their political base while knowing it was unlikely to become law. Rendon’s comments to the Bee certainly give ammunition to those who saw the bill as a half-baked “statement” bill.

Support and opposition fell along predictable and partisan lines. Liberal interest groups, unions and Democratic politicians typically supported the bill, while conservative groups, taxpayer organizations and Republicans opposed it. Some groups expressed views similar to Rendon’s – supporting the single-payer concept but expressing concern about specifics.

The latter, cautious point of view won the day. After all, the bill raised more questions than it answered. It’s unclear how the new system would work or how the new government agency would operate. There are questions about the effects a 15 percent payroll tax would on the economy and jobs creation and about the magnet effect if California created an unlimited, valuable new benefit available to anyone who simply lives in the state. There are questions about federal waivers and how the California system would intersect with federal programs. And that’s just for starters.

Instead of trying to answer those questions thoroughly, the bill’s backers did as Rendon suggested – introduced a measure that stated some principles and goals, but didn’t really explain how the state government might fund them. Given the debate the health care issue sparked at the latest state Democratic Party convention and on the floor of the Legislature, it’s clear that the single-payer issue will be around or a while, regardless of the fate of this particular bill.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

The relentless battle for legislative transparency

transparencyFor decades, it has been nearly impossible for ordinary citizens to pierce the veil of legislative secrecy in our state capital.

Of course, California is not unique — legislative bodies have sought to conceal their activity for millennia. This is inherent in the differences between rulers and subjects. But we all know too well that mischief feeds on secrecy. The Roman poet Virgil wrote more than 2,000 years ago, “Evil is nourished and grows by concealment.”

In California, the citizens have tried repeatedly to force legislative activity into the sunlight. So last year, to counter the common practice in the Legislature of introducing new bills and passing them within hours, often in the dead of night, voters approved Proposition 54. That important reform requires legislation be in print and available for public review for at least three days prior to final passage.

Passed as a constitutional amendment, Proposition 54 is not stated in discretionary language — its provisions are mandatory. And complying with its terms hardly places an onerous burden on lawmakers. Honestly crafted legislation should easily withstand a few days of public scrutiny.

The state Senate has complied with the will of the people, and even if some of the legislation this body has passed, like the gas tax increase, is repellent to many Californians, senators cannot be accused of keeping their lawmaking a secret.

The Assembly, on the other hand, has arrogantly continued business as usual by approving around 100 bills without the required time for members of the public to examine laws that they will be expected to obey. Assembly leaders say that the people cannot use the initiative process to mandate their conduct, making the lower house the poster child for the view that California government has become a militant special interest, more concerned with its own welfare and longevity, than that of the citizens it claims to serve.

In their pursuit of perks, pay and power, Assembly members are thumbing their collective noses at voters who, by approving Proposition 54, demanded greater transparency in the lawmaking process.

The initiative process in California dates back to 1911 and was a counter blow against the Legislature, most of whose members were beholden to the Southern Pacific Railroad. This form of direct democracy was intended to allow voters to become the lawmakers of last resort when their representatives proved to be indolent, incompetent or corrupt. The state’s most famous initiative, Proposition 13, came about when the Legislature proved to be both lazy and incapable of dealing with a property tax crisis that was forcing thousands of Californians from their homes.

Today, many state representatives are beholden to public employee unions and other special interests. Measures like Proposition 54 are valuable to prod lawmakers to behave in the best interests of all Californians, not just the Sacramento insiders.

If lawmakers continue to refuse to comply with Proposition 54’s reasonable, voter-approved mandate for transparency in their official conduct, there can be no doubt that resolution of this benchmark issue and the Assembly’s misconduct will end up before the courts.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. www.hjta.org

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register.

State Assembly defies new transparency law

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

SACRAMENTO – California voters in November overwhelmingly passed Proposition 54, a constitutional amendment to promote transparency by requiring all bills in their “final form” to be published online for 72 hours before legislators vote on them. It’s designed to stop last-minute gut-and-amend bills where the leadership pushes through substantive measures that haven’t been vetted – or even read by most members who vote on them.

It’s no secret that many legislative leaders dislike the proposal. For years, reform-minded lawmakers have proposed similar measures – but they never made it before the voters. Opponents of the rule say they are all for transparency, but that requiring such a long period of time for the public and critics to review all bills makes it difficult to get complicated and important measures put together as the legislative deadline approaches.

One would think that Prop. 54’s passage would have settled the argument, but a fracas last week in the Assembly suggests that core debates over the measure are far from settled and might soon find themselves hammered out in court.

The Legislature adjourned Friday following the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin. Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, assured that bills coming from the Senate waited 72 hours before a final vote. But Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, is accused by Proposition 54’s backers of allowing more than 90 bills to be voted on without having been published for a full 72 hours before the vote.

There’s a question over terminology in the proposition’s language: “No bill may be passed or ultimately become a statute unless the bill with any amendments has been printed, distributed to the members, and published on the internet, in its final form, for at least 72 hours before the vote, except that this notice period may be waived if the governor has submitted to the Legislature a written statement that dispensing with this notice period for that bill is necessary to address a state of emergency … .” The issue involves the term “final form.”

The initiative’s proponents say final form means the final form before a vote in each house of the Legislature. But the Assembly argues that final form “does not pertain to a vote to move a bill to the opposite house and instead applies to legislation presented on the floor of the second house,” according to a Sacramento Bee explanation.

The chief clerk of the Assembly issued a statement explaining that “Assembly bills will not be in final form until they are presented on the floor of the Senate.” Proponents of Prop. 54, including former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, and moderate Republican financier Charles Munger Jr., strongly disagree with that interpretation and say they might go to court to defend what they say is the clear intent of the initiative.

One element of Prop. 54 that’s not in contention: The section finding that bills in violation of the 72-hour waiting period could be invalidated by the courts. That’s where the latest fracas resembles a game of chicken. De Leon clearly wasn’t taking any chances with his house’s interpretation of the proposition’s meaning. Rendon could have, say, passed a minor bill on a shorter notice as a test case to see how the courts would rule. Instead, if it’s true that he didn’t wait the full 72 hours for the votes, he may have put dozens of bills in jeopardy if the courts side with initiative drafters.

Supporters of the rule applying to both houses argue that it would be incomprehensible to give members of one legislative body (and their constituents) 72 hours to review a bill and deprive the same thing of members of the other legislative body.

Critics of the “both houses” interpretation suggest that Prop. 54’s drafters could simply have included the language “in each house” following the words “final form.” But the initiative’s drafters believe the plain reading of the initiative means that every bill must be in print 72 hours before each vote. Including the “in each house” language could have been interpreted to mean 72 hours in each house (for a possible total of six days), something proponents clearly didn’t intend.

It’s increasingly likely this dispute ends up at the state Supreme Court, with the stakes higher than ever. It will pit the intent of an initiative that passed by a nearly two-to-one margin and in all of California’s 58 counties against more than 90 recently passed bills, which could possibly be tossed aside even if the governor signs them.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Assembly Democrat stripped of committee chairmanship after voting against gas tax increase

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Nearly two weeks after breaking with fellow Democrats to vote against a bill raising California fuel taxes, Assemblyman Rudy Salas of Bakersfield has lost the chairmanship of a prime legislative committee.

On Monday, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced that he had removed Salas from his position heading the politically lucrative Assembly Business and Professions Committee, which handles consumer regulations, occupational licensing and product labeling bills.

Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, will take over as the committee chair, while Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, will get Salas’ vacancy. Salas was moved to the Assembly Rules Committee, which assigns bills to relevant policy committees and makes other decisions to administer the house. …

Don’t Rush Toward Gas and Transportation Taxes

LA-Freeway-Xchange-110-105The governor and legislative leaders came out from behind closed doors with a transportation tax and road fix plan and demand to pass the measure through the legislature in one week. Feels a lot like the federal experience with the health care reform bill. And, like that measure, despite one party controlling the executive and legislative branch, the bill might not find necessary support.

The campaign to pressure wavering legislators to get behind the bill kicked off yesterday in Concord with a lineup of Governor Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President pro tem Kevin de León teaming up with union members to visit Senator Steve Glazer’s district and convince Brown’s one-time aide to publicly embrace the tax increase.

I seem to remember unions opposed Glazer when he first ran because of his stand against BART strikes. Different time and different unions, perhaps, but Glazer is still behind that issue. There are indications that Glazer is holding out for a no-strike provision in the transportation bill before he decides if he will support it.

While Brown, De León and Rendon will play old-fashioned political hard ball with legislative members in attempting to secure the needed two-thirds vote to pass the tax increases, ultimately individual legislators are going to have to be satisfied that their constituents will swallow the tax increase.

Voting patterns and attitudes have changed since Gov. Gray Davis was kicked out of office in great part because he increased the vehicle tax. While just about everybody believes road repair is necessary for improving the state’s economy and for the general public’s mental health while driving congested highways, yet, the double whammy of an increased vehicle registration fee and 43% gas tax increase will be a hard sell. Especially, to less well-off constituents those who have to drive a long way to get to work.

The transportation issue and health care issue are different in many ways, but the idea of rushing through a measure that will pile new burdens on the public has a familiar feel to what happened recently in Washington.

The strategy behind quickly passing the two quite different bills is similar: Pass a measure before it gets tangled up in amendments. A lot of amendments can and should be had.

At the Concord news event yesterday, Gov. Brown said, “There is nothing more fundamental in the business of government than making sure the roads and bridges don’t fall apart, and they are falling apart.”

But if roads and bridges are a fundamental responsibility for government, why wasn’t attention paid to them when the state budget grew dramatically since Brown returned to the governor’s office?

Brown says if we don’t address the problem now it will only get worse—and more expensive to fix. Right on both counts. However, using current transportation related dollars that find the way to non-transportation services or including proposals that will allow for more cost efficient repairs would go a long way to convince voters that government is trying to get the job done right and give good value for their tax dollars. It might even convince voters to chip in a little more to get the job done.

Legislators like Glazer are independent and not so easily coerced. Legislators should hear  from their constituents before voting on the bill. Rushing through the transportation bill without sensible changes could result in the same fate as the health care bill.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily