Legislative Process Wrecking Calif.
This week I witnessed first hand everything that is wrong with California, and it’s happening at the hands of many of the state’s 40 senators and 79 Assembly members.
Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Los Angeles, has authored two very “good government” bills that were summarily killed in a committee, and on the nastiest of partisan issues. And the bills were killed by his own party.
Two bills, SB 560 and SB 688, were presented by Wright to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee Wednesday. The bills attempted to give some regulatory oversight to the Legislature, instead of allowing state agencies to implement regulations without legislative involvement.
SB 688 would require a regulatory agency to notify the Legislature if the estimated cumulative costs for affected businesses will exceed a certain amount of money. In this case, Wright chose $10,000,000 as the total cost, but said he was open to any amount. The purpose for the bill, Wright explained, was that too many of California’s regulations have forced small businesses to either go bankrupt or close because of the cost of implementing regulations.
SB 560 would prevent a regulatory agency from requiring businesses to retrofit equipment until the technology is commercially available. Wright said that regulations are created, implemented and penalties are even assessed on businesses, when the technology is still not even commercially available.
The MTBE Disaster
One example Wright offered was the gas additive MTBE, required in California to improve air quality. What was supposed to be a clean air measure ended up polluting groundwater, because the old gas nozzles at the pumps were not designed to deliver the additive along with the gas. This forced the state to pay $12 billion for clean up, according to Wright.
But, then the California Air Resources Board ordered all of the state’s gas station owners to install special gas nozzles. And most of the smaller gas station owners just ended up going out of businesses because they could not afford the expensive changes.
“We don’t want to ask people to do something impossible to do,” said Wright. “Through no fault of their own, they were regulated right out of business — we regulated them right out of business.”
The bill would allows the Legislature to go back and look at regulations ordered by unelected regulatory boards and unelected state employees. Wright said that it is the Legislature’s responsibility to analyze regulations before they regulate small businesses into insolvency.
But Wright’s own Democratic colleagues cited the need for clean air and water as more important, and refused to vote for the bill’s passage. “People in my district want to be able to surf off clean beaches,” said Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego. “I think our environmental regulations have been economic drivers around the world.”
Sen. Fran Pavely, D-Agoura Hills, argued, “An educated work force is the primary concern of the business community.”
And Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian of Palo Alto said the bill was “overreaching,” but would not specify how.
The current party makeup of the Senate is 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans. According to the Senate website, each senator represents 931,349 Californians. But are the 931,349 constituents in each district really being fairly represented?
Sen. Wright proposed the two bills to dramatically correct the all-powerful, anti-business and out-of-control regulatory process, while representing 931,349 Californians. And, despite the strict limits in the bill, Wright was dismissed by his own party in order to further the radical environmental agenda — a minority interest agenda.
San Luis Obispo Republican Sen. Blakeslee spoke at the hearing about his frustrations with partisan politics, even when good bills are presented. And there was agreement, but still a divided vote along party lines.
If each of these senators represents nearly 1 million constituents, there is a great deal of underrepresentation in this state. What about the many small business owners in Kehoe’s or Pavley’s Senate districts, who are closing under the weight of overbearing regulations? Gas station owners, restaurants, manufacturers, gift boutiques, flower shops, wine and liquor producers and grocers are all subject to the whimsical, emotional decisions of the California Air Quality Board, and the California Environmental Protection Agency — because there is nothing to stop the bureaucrats.
Special interest is not only running the state, it is overrepresented in this state.
Labor unions, environmentalists, gay activists, teachers and prison guardsall have the attention of favored legislators over the interests of the majority of the constituents in California.
I don’t have any great ideas for how to fix this lopsided representation. But I do know that the “good government” and “transparency” that Democratic legislators love to talk about is all talk when it comes down to actually voting. They give nice speeches about recognizing the need for regulatory reform, but then call the reforms “overreaching.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we looked before we leaped,” Simitian said, describing the intent in Wright’s bills. But then Simitian voted “no.”
Wright was merely asking for analysis and a cooling-off period before regulations are put into action, with the intent of minimizing the costs to businesses and to the state. But as Wright concluded, “Everyone wants to be a Christian, but wants someone else to carry the cross.”
— Katy Grimes
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