CMA Capitol Insight: April 27, 2015

April 27, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy 

CMA Capitol Insight is a biweekly column by veteran journalist Anthony York, reporting on the inner workings of the state Legislature.

What's new in the Capitol

It’s been a wild, tumultuous couple of weeks for the fight to remove the personal belief exemption for school-required vaccinations. It began when Sen. Richard Pan, M.D., first presented his proposal to the Senate Education Committee, and ran into some unanticipated opposition.

Democratic Sens. Carol Liu and Loni Hancock expressed reservations about the measure, as did Republican Sen. Bob Huff. At the urging of the committee chairwoman, Liu, Dr. Pan decided to delay a vote on the measure for a week.

Ultimately, the measure got out on a 7-2 vote. The measure moves onto the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a majority of members have already cast votes in support of the bill.

Committee moves were afoot in the Assembly this week, with Speaker Toni Atkins juggling memberships of some legislative panels in her house. Merced Democrat Adam Gray was pulled off the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, one day after winning the committee’s approval on a measure aimed at protecting communities near the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.

Gray stopped short of saying Atkins yanked him from the committee in retribution for getting the bill out, but he called his dismissal “rare,” “unusual” and an “overreaction” to the surprising success of a water bill he considers crucial to his district.

Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, who also voted for the measure, was also removed from the committee.

Meanwhile, outspoken San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez was taken off the Assembly Public Safety Committee this week in a move that spawned warring press releases and revealed some tensions between the two Democrats.

Atkins told the press that Gonzalez asked to be removed. Gonzalez, however, issued a statement that the decision came only after Atkins spoke with her and laid out expectations that Gonzalez said she “could not fulfill… without violating her values and her obligation to protect families in her district.”

This type of housekeeping is not uncommon throughout the course of a legislative year – particularly with Assembly and Senate leaders still in their first year. The political and personal relationships inside the Capitol evolve as the bill calendar moves.

But these maneuvers underscore the power that leaders have to shape policy in their houses in subtle ways that often members of the public do not see.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown is reeling from a state appeals court ruling that may undermine his effort to cut urban water use in California. The court ruled that tiered water rates in the city of San Juan Capistrano were illegal, limiting local water agencies’ ability to charge ratepayers more for using more water.

The move comes as Brown wants locals to help curb water use in urban and industrial areas. Some cities, like Beverly Hills, are being asked to reduce water consumption by more than one-third.

Locals are bristling at the administration’s move, and it remains unclear how cooperative they will be in helping Brown achieve the goals he set out in emergency regulations earlier this month.

But have no fear, Captain Kirk is here. William Shatner announced this week that he has his own plan to solve California’s drought. Shatner wants to raise $30 billion in online donations to build a pipeline to move water from Seattle to California.

Needless to say, Washington State officials are not thrilled with the idea, but that has not deterred Shatner. He’s got a new Web site – Shatner’s Water – up and running, and is soliciting other drought solutions.

We will be watching closely.


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