Union measure, L.A. stadium plan occupy Legislature’s final week of the session
Reporting from Sacramento -- As this year’s legislative session entered its final week Tuesday, state lawmakers pursued one measure that would help politically powerful unions bolster their ranks and another to give an array of projects the same favors being proposed for the developer of a possible downtown Los Angeles stadium.
In unveiling the last-minute labor measure, Democratic leaders proposed allowing the unionization of nearly 40,000 people who receive state money to provide child care in their homes. That would vastly expand the dues-paying ranks of unions that contribute heavily to Democratic causes.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed three earlier versions of the proposal. It is unclear what action Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, would take.
Proponents said the measure would give political heft to providers of childcare, a perennial target of budget cuts.
“I think giving them collective bargaining rights will give workers … a voice in the important discussions, to make sure we don’t have kids pay the price for budget decisions in the future,” said the bill’s author, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles).
The bill, AB 101, would cover workers in “non-institutional” settings, including adults who receive subsidies to help care for young relatives.
“I would imagine grandparents would not typically feel the need for union representation,” quipped state Sen. Doug La Malfa (R-Richvale), an opponent of the proposal.
The bill is modeled on a measure that allowed the unionization of workers paid by the state to provide in-home care for disabled patients. That law added more than 75,000 members to California unions and helped them become a dominant force in state politics.
Paul McIntosh, a lobbyist for the California State Assn. of Counties, said the new measure would require counties, which administer the state grants, to form entities to bargain with the unions.
“It would certainly drive up administrative costs if counties have to hire someone to negotiate contracts,” he said.
Tonia McMillian, who provides day care in her Bellflower home, countered that a strong union voice would force the state to listen to workers who want lawmakers to be smarter about saving precious public dollars.
“They’re not listening now,” McMillian said, adding that she doesn’t expect to get a raise by joining a union. “It’s not about the money.”
Much attention Tuesday was also given to a bill to fast-track legal challenges to Anschutz Entertainment Group’s proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. Pérez said Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) was considering legislation that would provide other projects with expedited legal reviews. Other lawmakers briefed on the proposal said it could allow stadium projects in Sacramento and Santa Clara, as well as some renewable energy projects, to also benefit from streamlined reviews.
Steinberg declined to be specific about which projects might gain from such streamlining but said, “I’m going to speak to my caucus … so that we can get this economy going,” Steinberg said.
Under SB 292, a bill by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), any lawsuit challenging the stadium project for environmental reasons would have to be filed with the 2nd District Court of Appeal, and a decision would be required from the court within 175 days. Padilla said he would consider supporting a companion measure by Steinberg.
“I’m open to aiming higher,” he said.
Padilla tweaked the bill Tuesday to assuage concerns of some environmental groups about potential traffic and air pollution, though organizations including the California Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League continued to object. The measure cleared two Assembly committees Tuesday afternoon and could be taken up by the full house Wednesday.
Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) was one of the few legislators to speak out against the measure. He called it “special relief” for a “big project with powerful players.”
Also on Tuesday, Democrats were preparing an effort to ban ballot initiatives from primary elections, according to legislative staffers. Such a move could delay a number of conservative-backed measures proposed for a vote in June, when a contested GOP primary would be expected to draw favorable voters to the polls.
And a bill to ban the sale of shark fins in California headed to Gov. Jerry Brown after the Senate gave it final approval on a 25-9 vote. Proponents said the legislation was intended to crack down on the brutal practice of obtaining a key ingredient for shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. Opponents said the bill was discriminatory.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Anthony York contributed to this report.
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