Some wins, some losses in Sacto

Pub date June 3, 2013
WriterTim Redmond
SectionPolitics Blog

The state Assembly and Senate passed the usual flurry of bills on May 31, the last day for initial-house approval, with some unusual drama that temporarily sidelined a medical-marijuana bill by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

By the time it was all over, several other Ammiano bills passed, a measure by Assemblymember Phil Ting to ease the way for a Warriors arena on the waterfront won approval, and state Sen. Mark Leno got most of his major legislation through.

The pot bill, AB 473, would have established a state regulatory framework for medical cannabis, something that most advocates and providers support. Still, because the subject is marijuana, it was no easy sell and at first, a lot of members, both Republicans and Democrats, expressed concern that the measure might restrict the ability of local government to ban or limit dispensaries.

Ammiano, in presenting the bill, made it clear that it had no impact on local control, and that was enough to get 38 votes. Typically, when a bill is that close to passage, the chair asks the sponsor if he or she wants to “hold the call” that is, freeze the vote for a few minutes so supporters can make sure all of their allies are actually on the floor and voting and to try, if necessary, to round up a couple of wobblers.

In this case, though, Speaker Pro Tem Nora Campos, of San Jose, simply gaveled the vote to a close while Ammiano was scrambling to get her to hold it. “That’s very unusual, not good behavior,” one Sacramento insider told me.

Ammiano was more respectful toward Campos, simply calling it a “procedural mistake.” He told us he would be looking for other ways to move the bill. “The door is never fully closed up here,” he said.

However that turns out, the veteran Assemblymember, now in his final term, won a resounding victory with the passage of his Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, AB 241. The bill would give domestic workers some of the same labor rights as other employees, including the right to overtime pay and breaks. “These workers, who are mostly women, keep our households running smoothly, care for our children, and enable people with disabilities to live at home and remain engaged in our communities,” Ammiano said. “Why shouldn’t they have overtime protections like the average barista or gas station attendant?”

An Ammiano bill restricting the ability of prosecutors to use condom possession as evidence in prostitution cases also cleared, as did a bill tightening safety rules on firearms.

Ting’s bill, AB 1273, would allow the state Legislature, not the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, to make a key finding on whether the new area is appropriate for the shoreline. Mayor Ed Lee and the Warriors strongly backed the measure, clearly believing it would make the path to development easier. Ammiano voted against it showing that the San Francisco delegation is by no means unanimous on this issue.

Leno had a string of significant victories. A bill called the Disclose Act, which would mandate that all campaign ads reveal, in large, readable type, who is actually paying for them, cleared with the precise two-thirds majority needed and it was a straight party-line vote. Every single Republican was in opposition. “They know that if their ads say “paid for by Chevron and PG&E, the won’t work as well,” Leno told us.

He also won approval for a bill that would ease the way for people wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit to receive the modest $100 a day payment the state theoretically owes them. There are 132 people cleared of crimes and released from prison, but the process of applying for the payment is currently so onerous that only 11 have actually gotten a penny. “We victimized these people, and we shouldn’t make them prove their innocence twice,” Leno said.

Bills to better monitor price manipulation by oil companies and to expand the trauma recovery program pioneered by San Francisco General Hospital also cleared the Senate floor.

But Leno had a disappointing loss, too: A bill that would have helped tenants collect on security deposits that landlords wrongfully withheld died with only 12 vote a sign of how powerful the real-estate industry remains in Sacramento.