Wednesday Roundup: Cleanup on Aisle 7

Well, that was fun.

The 2009-10 legislative session sputtered to a close with Republican filibusters, Democratic scrambling, plenty of bipartisan yelling and a whole lot of legislative carnage left in its wake. In the end, bills to ban plastic bags, regulate health-insurace rate hikes and increase the state’s renewable energy portfolio died unceremonious deaths of the floor of the state senate, while other bills like the local goverment backruptcy measure backed by unions simply ran out of time.

To get a sense of the blow-by-blow in real time, check out Capitol Weekly’s Twitter feed, with real-time updates from the Senate and Assembly floors last night.

Capitol Weekly is still combing through the rubble. Check Thursday’s paper and our Web site throughout the day today and tomorrow for more details on the bitter end.

Midnight came with Republicans barking from the floors of both houses, while Democrats raced to pass some final bills.

Evan Halper reports, “It was an ugly ending. Lawmakers closed out their lackluster two-year legislative session by shouting, pointing fingers and casting votes on a bill that was written out of public view in the middle of the night.

“The proposal, AB 1012, seemed to suddenly emerge into bill form out of nowhere and was rushed through an Assembly vote and into the Senate. It promised to be a boon to certain green power companies, allowing them to bypass environmental restrictions when building plants. Or at least that was the buzz in the Capitol hallways. It was such a rush job that the average bystander had no way of knowing what was in the thing.

“But it was clear that GOP lawmakers did not like it when it came up for a vote minutes before the midnight deadline for moving legislation to the governor’s desk. “Point of order,” they shouted. They demanded to see a bill analysis. Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who was presiding over the Senate, informed them such an analysis was popping on their computer screens that very moment. Not that anyone was given time to read it. She ordered the clerk to immediately call the roll.

“More shouts of protest from GOP lawmakers. Romero ignored them and directed the clerk to keep the vote open. The votes weren’t there. The clock struck midnight. GOP lawmakers demanded the roll call cease –- the session was technically over, they cried. Romero kept the roll open. For minutes. More Democratic votes slowly trickled in, supporting the bill. By four minutes past midnight, the bill was just one vote short of passage. Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) was speechifying from the floor “we are a house of rules,” demanding the roll call be stopped as Romero spoke over him on her microphone, ordering the clerk to keep the roll call going.”

Of course, Republicans weren’t exactly in a hurry to work the legislative files Tuesday.

“Senate Republicans called a temporary halt to Senate debate this afternoon, slowing down the operation of the house as the legislature races against a key legislative deadline.

“The Republicans’ decision to go into a closed-door caucus came in the middle of the debate on one of the major bills of the year – a proposal to ban plastic bags at grocery stores and many other retail outlets.

“Lawmakers are hoping to vote on dozens of bills Tuesday, the final day of the 2010 legislative session. Lawmakers must adjourn by midnight, as required by the state constitution.

“That means if Democrats – or anybody else, for that matter—want their bills to get to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk, they need the Senate and Assembly to act quickly. Judging from the actions of Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) Tuesday afternoon, Republicans aren’t quite as eager as their Democratic counterparts to work their way through that stack of bills.

“And why would they be? Most of the bills pending before the house—be it a ban on plastic bags or a change of rules for health-insurance providers—are authored by Democrats. The clock can now help Republicans do what their numbers in the Legislature don’t allow them to do—kill legislation they don’t like but are powerless to stop.”

Gun bills met with a mixed fate. A measure by Lori Saldaña to prevent the open carrying of unloaded handguns passed after a late vote from Gloria Negrete-McLeod.

Jim Miller reports, “Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, had abstained Monday during an unsuccessful 20-16 vote on the measure, AB 1934. But she backed the bill Tuesday and it passed with the minimum 21 votes necessary.

Negrete McLeod said her vote reflected the advice of her husband, Gil, a retired Los Angeles police lieutenant.

“He said people might get hurt carrying open guns. Police officers don’t have the time to say, `Here, let me check'” to see if they are dealing with someone who has a loaded weapon, she said.

Will Arnold sign the Paparazzi bill? Entertainment Tonight viewers want to know…

Jack Dolan reports, “Photographers who drive recklessly in pursuit of celebrity photos or block sidewalks creating a sense of “false imprisonment” will face stiff new penalties, including possible jail time, under a measure that gained final approval in the Assembly on Tuesday.

“Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D- Los Angeles) wrote AB 2479 after hearing tales of paparazzi encounters from actresses Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, among others, and about high-speed car chases through Hollywood as multiple photographers would compete for a celebrity photo.

“It’s amazing that there haven’t been tragedies like what happened in France with Princess Diana,” Bass said, referring to the British royal’s death in a high-speed crash after photographers followed her car through darkened Paris streets.  Investigators said alcohol was found in Diana’s chauffeur’s blood, which contributed to the crash.”

In other news, Seema Mehta looks at Meg Whitman’s latest ad, running in the Bay Area.

“The ad, which was first televised Monday, is part of a push by the Whitman campaign into the Democratic stronghold and home turf for Brown, Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007. The move is unusual for a Republican candidate but reflects Whitman’s immense financial advantage over the Democrat.

“The 30-second ad restates criticisms Whitman has launched about Brown’s tenure as mayor — that he oversaw failure in the city’s schools, mismanagement in the city’s administration and an increasing murder rate. “He just can’t deliver the results California needs now,” the announcer concludes.”

And finally, for those of you who missed last night’s fun, we find that, as with most things, it can be best captured by Peggy Lee. So Peggy, take it away…

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