Legislation, and dollars, flow


THE STATE LEGISLATURE IS HEADING into the last few days of its session in an unfortunately familiar state: a chaotic mix of speed and greed.

Hundreds of bills that crept through committees for months are now elbowing for final votes. Lobbyists prowl the halls seeking a tweak in the language that will help their clients. Hundreds of bills hang in the breach, hastily being amended and rushed to vote. Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) complained that Democratic-sponsored amendments to a bill were handwritten. “We might just as well use smoke signals,” Spitzer said. “There’s some politics going on behind this.”

Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) responded in the style of Capt. Renault: “I’m shocked there is politics going on here!”


Assemblyman Ray Haynes (R-Murrieta) blamed Democrats for their lack of discipline and looked back nostalgically to, of all people, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. While it’s true that Brown was the “ayatollah of the Assembly,” he rarely got a kind word from Republicans for his iron-fisted style.

Partisan differences are even more bitter than normal this year because of the impending Nov. 8 special election that pits Democrats and their labor union supporters against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his business allies.

Legislators shamelessly solicit campaign contributions from special interests during the final chaotic days of a session, a period in which virtually every lobbying organization has some item of interest before lawmakers.

It would be called bribery except that lawmakers have arranged to keep the practice legal.During two days last week, more than 20 legislators held campaign fundraisers within walking distance of the Capitol. The standard admission price was $1,000, though some paid $3,300, the individual donation limit, to be honored as a “founders circle” member. These events were once dinners. Now, with lawmakers too busy, the event of choice is breakfast. Imagine, $1,000 for “Jamba Juice and coffee.”

After the session ends, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has 30 days to sign or veto bills. Schwarzenegger could do some rehabilitation of his sagging image by wielding an equal-opportunity veto pen on the flood crossing his desk.

If a measure gives a break to a special interest, whether labor, corporate or industrial, off with its head.