As the Senate adjourned last month, Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Montebello, was
on the Assembly floor, desperately lobbying Assembly leaders to pass through
her bill on the digital divide, SB 909. Her bill was being used as a
bargaining chip between the two legislative houses and, like many others, it
was being held hostage by Capitol politicking.
But when word spread that the Senate had adjourned–and that her legislation
was dead for the year–Escutia stormed off the Assembly floor and back to the
Senate chamber. The problem: With her went three Assembly bills that she had
taken custody of to transmit to the Assembly.
And so, like Escutia’s bill, each of the three Assembly bills died for the
year. Several in the Capitol have called the episode “unprecedented.”
“End of session is a hectic time where anything can and will happen,” says
Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who was with Escutia at the time. “And in
this case, it did.”
The story begins on the Senate floor.
“Mr. Simitian, you better get on your horse, because I am going to shut this
sucker down pretty soon,” announced Senate Leader Don Perata in the waning
minutes of session, telling his fellow Democrat that had only minutes to
gain his bill back from the Assembly.
Simitian hustled toward the Senate desk and huddled briefly with Escutia,
who emerged from the impromptu gathering, folder in hand. Hoisting it up
triumphantly in the air, she marched off the Senate floor–carrying the
ill-fated three bills to the Assembly.
“We scurried over together,” recalls Simitian, who was trying to track down
the fate of SB 426, his bill covering liquefied natural gas.
The rest of the senators milled about the room, idly passing the time, but
less than a minute later, Perata queried, “Is there any further business to
come before the house?”
“Seeing none, we are adjourned,” Perata declared.
The chamber broke out in applause, as senators and staffers, weary from a
week of marathon floor sessions, were free to go home. But across the hall,
the mood was much more sedate, as a handful of bills were delayed until next
year with the sudden Senate adjournment.
“As we were standing there [on the Assembly floor], someone said the Senate
had adjourned,” recalls Simitian. “We looked a little startled, went racing
back to the Senate only to discover that the Senate had in fact adjourned.”
And with Simitian and Escutia went the three Assembly bills. Because they
were not transmitted to the Assembly before the end of the legislative year,
each of the bills must now wait until the legislature reconvenes in January
“The bills surfaced in the Assembly the following day sometime in the
mid-afternoon,” said a spokesman for Assemblyman Calderon, whose bill to
allow for the use of national diesel fuel for state truckers was in
Escutia’s hands. “We were disappointed that it didn