CMA Capitol Insight: Sept. 2, 2014

September 02, 2014
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.

End of Session

The final two weeks of the 2014 legislative session may have been void of the mega-deals of years passed, but there was plenty of last-minute deal-making, inside plays, and highs and lows for the scores of lobbyists who gathered daily outside the Senate and Assembly chambers during the final days.

Gov. Jerry Brown has until September 30 to deal with the hundreds of bills that found their way to his desk, and we’re all banking on a few colorful veto messages that have become a Brown trademark. The Governor will take a brief respite to debate his Republican challenger, Neel Kashkari, on September 4.

Among the proposals waiting for action from the governor are new regulations on ride-sharing services, a ban on single-use plastic bags and new restrictions on toy guns. A deal to extend the tax credit for filmmaking in California was also among the accords reached in the final hours.

But it wasn’t always easy.

The proposed ban on plastic bags has lived and died more times than a cat during the last two weeks, with an 11th hour deal securing the bill’s passage on the second-to-last day of session. While it remains to be seen what Brown will ultimately do with the measure, the debate was among the most dramatic during the last week of the legislative year.

First, the bill died on the Assembly floor when the Food and Commercial Workers Union pulled its support for the bill by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles). After some private conversations with the Grocers Association, however, labor’s concerns were mollified and the bill passed off the Assembly floor.

Funny how that works.

Ridesharing services Uber and Lyft got a crash-course in politics this year, and had to spend big bucks trying to beat back efforts to place new restrictions on their drivers.

In the end, the two companies agreed to a compromise proposal that will ensure the services are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, just like taxi cabs. In addition, drivers will need a new insurance policy that provides $50,000 for death or injury of a passenger and $100,000 in coverage for all damages in an accident. Earlier proposals would have required as much as $750,000 in coverage.

Meanwhile, Gov. Brown celebrated an extension of the film tax credit with a bipartisan photo op after the accord was struck. The agreement will expand the existing $100 million credit to $330 million annually.

While it was short of the $400 million deal many lawmakers and their Hollywood compatriots wanted, the entire idea of an extension at all seemed in doubt just a year ago. It was the film-credit bill that attracted the interest of the FBI and ultimately led to the arrest of Sen. Ron Calderon on public corruption charges, with FBI agents posing as studio executives seeking an expansion of the credit.

All water under the bridge apparently. And those of you who were worried that Hollywood wouldn’t get its share of the economic recovery can rest easy.

Some who may not be resting easy are Democrats who don’t support the strong anti-fracking agenda of Democratic billionaire Tom Steyer. Steyer got an audience with Democrats in Sacramento this week, and put them on notice that he was prepared to open his sizable wallet in Legislative contests in California.

Steyer said he would even seek to influence races between two Democrats, vowing to try to elect lawmakers who may support a new state tax on oil extraction.

We will be watching the moves of Steyer and others as we shift away from legislative season to election season. Ads against Proposition 46 hit the radio and television airwaves this week, and it’s quite possible the campaign may wind up being more expensive than the governor’s race. We’ll be discussing that measure and other races around the state in the weeks to come.


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