What do sugar-laden soft drinks, flimsy plastic shopping bags and used kitchen grease have in common?
They are the focus of controversial legislation in Sacramento. So far, they've survived a gauntlet of lobbying and multiple committee and floor votes to make it out of the Senate or Assembly, where they got started months ago — along with thousands of other proposals.
In all, lawmakers in the current session have introduced 2,766 bills in the Assembly and 1,467 in the Senate.
The soda bill would require manufacturers to put labels on containers with a "safety warning" that says "drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay."
SB 1000 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) recently left the Senate with a bare majority needed, but faces a potentially tougher battle in the Assembly. The California Medical Assn. and other health advocates support the proposal. Business and soft drink trade groups are fighting it.
Most plastic shopping bags have been outlawed in more than 77 localities in California. Now, a proposed statewide ban, SB 270 by Sen.
Padilla is supported by local governments, environmentalists and the California Retailers Assn. Plastic bag manufacturers and some small-business organizations oppose.
The soft drink and the bag measures, decried by critics as big-government or "nanny" bills, face opposition from many conservative Republicans and business-friendly Democrats.
The officially titled "Inedible Kitchen Grease" bill would crack down on thieves who steal used French fry oil left outside restaurants for pickup by renderers. Such "liquid gold" is turned into environmentally friendly biodiesel fuel for motor vehicles.
The bill, AB 1566 by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), would increase criminal penalties for grease theft. Holden's proposal, possibly because it's tough on crime, sailed out of the Assembly on a unanimous, bipartisan vote and moved to the Senate. It's backed by the California Restaurant Assn. and has no identified opposition.
The three bills, along with other niche measures, are unsurprising given the massive special interest lobbying presence at the Capitol, longtime academic observers say.
"It's an industry that is insatiable when it comes to the kind of issues it brings before the Legislature," said A.G. Block, associate director of the UC California Center in Sacramento, which offers programs in public policy and journalism. "All you need is an author, and here we go."
California lawmakers have plenty of opportunities to bring even the most esoteric bills before colleagues, said Barbara O'Connor, former director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Cal State Sacramento.
"Some state legislatures are part-time. Members don't have time to carry all the bills," she said. "Here, they have lots of time and lots of staff. One way to prove to constituents that they're effective is to have lots of bills."