Oddly enough, Legislature displaying hints of moderation

June 1, 2013

By Chris Reed

The California Legislature has been such a redoubt of hardcore liberal lunacy for so long that I can’t believe I’m writing this, but May may have been the most moderate month I’ve seen in Sacramento since Pete Wilson departed the governor’s office 14 years ago.

That this happened even when Democrats had their biggest margins in the Assembly and Senate in many years makes it even more striking.

On Friday, bills banning hydraulic fracturing — the radically improved energy exploration technology that has triggered a brown energy revolution — died in the Assembly. Sen. Fran Pavley, author of a bill that passed the Senate and imposed a fracking moratorium until at least Jan. 1, 2015, indicated to reporters that she would be willing to remove the moratorium as her bill establishing fracking rules advanced over the summer.

There is still a very good chance that Pavley pushes for a regulatory framework so hostile to fracking that it will delay its expanded use in California for years. However, considering that a ban on fracking is an overriding goal of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, the demise of the moratorium push so early in the session is stunning.

On Thursday, the plastic bag ban died in the Assembly after several Democratic lawmakers offered the sort of sarcastic and common-sense takes on its silliness that Republicans have long used for nanny-state measures. Other Democratic lawmakers said they cared about jobs in their districts more than the environmentalist agenda.

Earlier in May, proposed tax hikes on oil extraction, cigarettes, soda, strip clubs and plastic bags all died.

What’s behind outbreak of sanity?

bizarro.jerryWhy is this happening? Several theories come to mind.

1. Jerry Brown’s interest in fracking and his and Senate President Darrell Steinberg’s opposition to more tax hikes so soon after Proposition 30 inspired unusual pragmatism in enough Democratic lawmakers to kill measures that normally would only have died with a gubernatorial veto, if then.

2. On the plastic bag ban, minority Democrats finally have figured out that west Los Angeles/Beverly Hills/San Francisco/Marin County white Democrats have a different definition of “social justice” than they do.

3. The open primary law pushed by former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado is having the moderating impact it was supposed to, at least on Democrats.

It could be a mix of all these factors. I also think there are more independent-minded Senate Democrats than at any time in years, including several elected before the open primary took effect.

The net result: This doesn’t feel at all like the Sacramento of the Karen Bass years, when no one blinked when the Assembly speaker likened foes of higher taxes to terrorists.

We still are a terribly run state headed for ruin without major changes. But that doesn’t mean a sliver of good news shouldn’t be acknowledged.




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