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Coming Soon: A Year That’s Electric With Possibilities

To my knowledge, there has never been a riot at the Rose Parade.

A trifling 4.2 earthquake, yes, a squalid fatal stabbing, protests by Native Americans and others of disgruntled mind, but nothing that has managed to unhorse 111 years of sunshine and civic festivity.

But Monday . . . Monday, right behind the mayor of Pasadena and just ahead of the Marine Corps band, comes the Edison International float.

Thirty thousand roses were cut and glued and wired into place to create a fantasy of egrets and butterflies, sea turtles and fish, in honor of the worthwhile Wetlands Recovery Project--and every leaf and petal paid for by Edison.

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I could be wrong about the riot potential. A lot of out-of-staters go to that parade. There’s no reason they would know that Edison International is the parent company of Southern California Edison. There’s no reason for them to be steamed that Southern California Edison spent the last week of the old year poor-mouthing itself to the Public Utilities Commission, demanding a rate hike of 30% just for starters, to keep from going belly-up.

Out-of-staters would have no reason to be miffed that Southern California Edison just spent a half-million dollars mailing out rate-increase notices before any such increase has been approved. Nor would they have any cause to recall with pique that, back in 1996, Edison spent more than a million bucks lobbying to get deregulated in the first place.

Nope--all the Rose Parade visitors will see tomorrow is a float.

A float that, by the way, is all electric. What a pity California can’t afford to be.

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With Edison jump-starting the year like that, what else might be California’s lot in 2001?

* January: President Bush exempts military bases like Camp Pendleton from the Endangered Species Act; thousands of hunters join Marine Corps reserve units for a chance to “bag a few.”

* February: Native Americans, rolling in casino cash, buy an NFL team for Los Angeles. The team is named “the L.A. Warriors,” and its mascot’s wildly popular sideline shtick is tomahawking a John Wayne look-alike.

* March: A promising school voucher initiative collapses at the ballot box when mainstream Judeo-Christian religious leaders withdraw support after learning that Scientology and Wicca will also operate religious voucher schools. Also in the March primary, voters legalize pet ferrets, the same month pet rocks are declared illegal under new natural artifact rules.

* April: Former insurance commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, now in Hawaii hoping we all forget about him, dodges any liability for his miscellaneous outrages by selling his soul to Pele, goddess of fire. As part of the deal, Quackenbush makes a handsome living peddling volcano insurance to golf courses.

* May: State Democrats redraw California’s political districts to entrench their power; the Orange County congressional district long held by the frighteningly entertaining B-1 Bob Dornan is gerrymandered to look like the words “NO BOB.”

* June: A Jet Propulsion Laboratory probe confirms the existence of liquid subsurface water on Mars; California claims rights to the water, based on the fact that JPL is in Pasadena.

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* July: Welfare rolls swell with laid-off “dot-com” masses; those who are still employed invite in AFL-CIO organizers and begin to unionize.

* August: Footings are finally laid for the Oakland end of the Bay Bridge, snapped by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, but construction halts when it is learned that builders used Chinese steel, triggering human rights protests led by Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.

* September: With more movie-company crews than residents in the central city, Los Angeles’ new mayor signs a long-term lease converting downtown into a huge movie back lot and renaming it in honor of its chief leaseholder: Spiel Burg.

* October: Using a loophole in the federal tax code, Mendocino County approves the legal cultivation and taxation of medical-grade marijuana. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, reared on a Modesto peach farm, frantically offers subsidies to those who don’t plant. She has no takers.

* November: In a shocker, term limits are repealed. The measure’s sponsors--teachers, lawyers, real estate agents, auto mechanics and others--pleaded with voters to help them stop unemployed politicians from overrunning their professions.

* December: Desperate to avoid rationing electricity, authorities experiment with solutions, including adding kilowatt-hours to the California Lottery prizes.

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Columnist Patt Morrison writes today for the vacationing Mike Downey. Her e-mail address is patt.morrison@latimes.com.

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