SACRAMENTO — California businesses and other special interests quickly learn that playing politics in the ornate chambers of California’s Capitol building is more like a barroom brawl than a civics lesson about how bills become laws.
Here’s a peek behind the everyday chaos in Sacramento as businesses dispatch hired-gun lobbyists to vie for lawmakers’ attention and votes. The numbers are daunting: This year, 1,526 registered lobbyists are stalking the halls and hearing rooms in the service of 2,410 clients. And there’s more activities in state agencies all over Sacramento. Last year, businesses, local governments and other interests spent $277.5 million here lobbying.
On Tuesday, the pummeling ratchets up as legislative committees start considering the first of 2,233 bills awaiting their attention.
“Everybody’s got a lobbyist. It ain’t pretty, but it’s democratic,” said Barry Broad, who represents labor unions. “For the interest groups that show up in Sacramento, their entire world is at stake. But for the rest of us, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what they’re fighting about.”
Warrants for emails?
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) wants to protect your emails from scrutiny by law enforcement. Leno has introduced legislation to require search warrants before companies such as Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. turn them over.
“No law enforcement agency could obtain someone’s mail or letters that were delivered to their home without first securing a search warrant, but that same protection is surprisingly not extended to our digital life,” Leno said. He acted at the request of the Electronic Frontier Foundation of San Francisco.
“The law hasn’t kept up with changes in technology,” said Hanni Fakhoury, a foundation staff attorney. Fakhoury said he expects the measure to win support from major email providers. The American Civil Liberties Union also supports email search warrants.
Leno had no luck last year with a bill requiring search warrants for cellphone GPS information, which was opposed by the California District Attorneys Assn. and was vetoed by the governor.
California’s energy efficiency regulators are back at it. After decades of requiring that appliances, furnaces, air conditioners and even big-screen televisions be more power stingy, officials are setting their sights on a new batch of products: video game consoles, set-top cable boxes, computers, various types of lighting, and pool and spa pumps.
“Since 1978, energy-efficiency standards have saved California ratepayers $74 billion in electricity costs,” said Andrew McAllister, a member of the California Energy Commission.
The commission is gathering technical information on 15 products.
Manufacturers, led by the Consumer Electronics Assn., say they’re hoping that the commission will adopt “a new collaborative process” and won’t be quite as “inflexible” as they’ve been in the past.
The standards are expected to be voted on in 2014 and take effect no earlier than 2015.