SACRAMENTO — Life at the state Capitol is mellow these days, now that lawmakers are away on a monthlong summer recess.
Their absence, for the more literary of the statehouse denizens, brings to mind a famous quote popularized by 19th century author Mark Twain:
"No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session."
For the next couple of weeks, things should be relatively safe and tranquil.
In the meantime, the more relaxed atmosphere has emboldened some legislative staffers to show up late at their offices and leave a bit early. With temperatures hovering in the near triple digits, the lobbyists remaining from the usual swarm have hung up their suits and switched to shorts and Hawaiian shirts.
"Nobody is working full days. The restaurants are pretty empty," said Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Assn. "The political crowd is all dispersed and not to be found."
Meanwhile in the horseshoe
Down on the Capitol's ground floor in Gov. Jerry Brown's office, known as the "Horseshoe" because of its configuration, the pace of work isn't slowing down.
The governor signs bills, makes appointments and huddles with aides about legislation that will be pending Aug. 4 when senators and Assembly members return for a final month of session.
Brown and his administration are contending with wildfires and drought, a proposed water bond and dozens of other big and small challenges.
One of Brown's relatively routine actions, for example, generated excitement at the California Wine Institute, a trade group based in San Francisco.
In an emailed newsletter, the institute announced that Brown's signature on a bill, effectively immediately, will allow wine and cider makers to provide tastings to shoppers at certified farmers markets. The bill, AB 2488 by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) "passed the Legislature without a single 'no' vote," the institute reported.
Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor, emphasized that his office is running at full throttle. And taking a cue from the Latin-loving Brown, he tossed out the dictum labor omnia vincit, which means "work conquers all."
Information flow slackens
Even the flow of news releases from government departments and interest groups slackens but doesn't entirely stop during the recess. Bureaucracies that regularly churn out notices and statements on a daily or weekly basis appeared to turn off their information spigots, at least temporarily, before lawmakers left town July 3.
The Franchise Tax Board, which collects the income tax, went silent after July 1, when it announced that the state had collected its $1 billion in additional revenue from "a massive tax system modernization project."
The California Energy Commission issued a press release on the same day, touting new residential efficiency standards.
"Everybody needs a break," said longtime lobbyist Jim Cassie. "This is really pleasurable."