He Speaks for Business

From LegiTech News Service

The cozy, business-friendly confines of a Republican-led Assembly are no longer, but some business leaders were placated by the recent news that Assembly Democrats had selected Cruz Bustamante of Fresno as the next speaker of the Assembly.

The speaker sets the overall agenda for the Assembly and appoints the influential committee chairs who screen bills headed to the floor for a vote.

At his first media conference as speaker-to-be, Bustamante last week made clear that one of his top priorities as the second-most powerful politician in California would be to shepherd the state's continued economic recovery. His voting history and his roster of financial contributors suggest Bustamante is willing to work with business interests.

The California Chamber of Commerce, which puts all legislators through its business-friendly litmus test, looked at his voting record on 20 "priority" bills from the recent legislative session. Bustamante sided with the chamber position 40% of the time, a score that puts him in the middle of the legislative pack but one that takes on significance because only three Assembly Democrats scored higher.

"He is one of the more moderate members of the Democratic Caucus," said Bill Packer, spokesman for the Assn. of California Insurance Companies. "He is not anti-business. He is open-minded and willing to listen to the issues."

The trade group was one of his largest contributors in the 1995-96 legislative session. It pumped $10,000 into his campaign coffers over the period. Mercury General Corp., the Wilshire Boulevard-based auto and homeowner insurance company, was Bustamante's top contributor, with $23,250.


* Dallas S. Homes of Riverside has been appointed superior court judge for Riverside County. Holmes, 55, has been a partner with the Riverside firm Best Best & Krieger since 1974. Salary: $107,390. No Senate confirmation required.

* Frank Piersall Jr. of San Diego has been reappointed to the California Regional Water Quality Board for the San Diego region. Piersall, 64, has served on the board since 1992. He is president of Piersall Group Inc., which owns and operates the Piersall's Buggy Bath chain of self-service carwashes.

The Water Resources Control Board and the nine regional water quality boards are responsible for the state's water quality. These boards allocate water resources, issue waste discharge permits and enforce pollution laws. No salary. No senate confirmation required.

* Monta K. Huber of Escondido has been appointed to the Board of Registered Nursing. Huber, 62, recently retired after working as a real estate broker with several companies in the Escondido area. She is a former administrator for the Santa Monica-based Rand Corp.'s Department of Geophysics. No salary. No Senate confirmation required.

These November appointments were made by the governor.

Hot Bills

Here's a brief look at some of the important business-related bills recently acted on:

* Drinking Water Standards (SB 1307)

Repeals a 1989 law requiring state health officials to develop comprehensive water quality standards. Less-stringent federal requirements will now apply. Supporters, including the Assn. of California Water Agencies, argued the state rules could cost $6 billion and mean higher water bills. Opponents, including California Public Interest Research Group, argued that public safety--not potential costs--should be the determining factor. Author: Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier). Signed.

* Small Business Health Insurance (SB 371)

Expands small business access to health insurance by requiring carriers to offer and issue health coverage to employers with as few as two employees versus three previously.

Supporters, including the California Medical Assn., argued that policies established to improve small business access to health coverage have been successful and should include more businesses. Author: Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles). Signed.

* Property Tax Distribution (AB 2797)

Would have stopped the partial transfer of property tax revenues from city and county agencies to local school systems, a process started in 1992 to offset state budget deficits. Supporters, including California Building Industry Assn., argued that the diversion reduced incentives for local officials to approve new development projects. Opponents, including Gov. Pete Wilson, argued that any attempt to stimulate construction should include a revision of developer fees and other potential roadblocks. Author: Fred Aguiar (R-Chino). Vetoed.

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