SACRAMENTO — Live from the Capitol, it’s Tim Donnelly — on Facebook, on Twitter and on the Assembly floor, where he frequently denounces bills he dislikes.
A two-term Republican lawmaker from San Bernardino County, he likes to be heard. Just after punching a green button for “yes” or, more often, the red button “no,” he takes to social media to tell the world how he voted and why.
“I send them live from the floor because I believe the people have a right to know,” says Donnelly, 47, a self-described tea party conservative from Twin Peaks in the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead.
During a recent floor session, Donnelly, a plastics company owner, fired off a dozen cyber-messages. On an elections bill, for instance, he said he voted no because it would eliminate most write-in candidates. The bill passed 65 to 8.
“Mr. Donnelly seems to be the only one representing the people in that legislative free for all,” an admiring Facebook reader responded.
Although the lawmaker relies on the latest smartphone technology to post and tweet, he also uses a low-tech tool to put his libertarian stamp on the debate. Near the end of last year’s legislative session, he spoke on roughly 1 in 4 bills, offering personal and sometimes meandering comments. “That was a very strategic attempt to slow down the 550 new laws they were trying to pass in five days,” he says.
Majority Democrats were irked. Then-Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) groused that Donnelly didn’t have any strategy, “other than to attract attention to himself.”
Not all the attention Donnelly gets is welcome. Last year, he was cited for attempting to take a loaded pistol through security at Ontario International Airport. He told police he didn’t know the weapon was in his bag. Donnelly pleaded no contest, paid a fine and got three years’ probation.
Pay phone payouts
Most people don’t use pay phones anymore. But, if they do, they shouldn’t get a bill of up to $20 for a 20-second call, state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) says.
Owners of California’s remaining 30,000 pay phones now aren’t required to post information about how much they charge when calls are made with a credit card. Lieu said he learned about the problem by reading Times’ business columnist David Lazarus. Lieu’s bill, SB 50, would require pay phone operators to warn users of the real cost of making a call. It passed the Senate recently on a unanimous vote and moved to the Assembly.
“There are still many instances when people need a pay phone,” Lieu says.
Don’t toss that thermostat
Old-fashioned heating and cooling thermostats used toxic mercury to measure and control room temperatures. Although illegal for eight years now, there are still an estimated 10 million of them in California.
But regulators don’t want them thrown away; after all, they’re poisonous. So, the state issued rules requiring a nonprofit industry group to start collecting the old instruments and recycling the mercury.
“It’s the right thing to do,” says the nonprofit organization, Thermostat Recycling Corp. of Alexandria, Va.