Political landscape

State lawmakers have placed more than 700 bills before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign, reject or let pass into law unsigned by Sept. 30, and 28 of them come from lawmakers representing Glendale and Burbank.

The most prolific local lawmaker is Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D - La Cañada Flintridge), who has 17 bills before the governor. State Sen. Carol Liu (D - Glendale) has seven under consideration. Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D - Silver Lake), —sworn in two months before the deadline for new legislation—has four.

Portantino's effort to launch a California cord blood bank, inspired by the case of a La Cañada Flintridge neighbor who beat leukemia with the help of donated umbilical cord blood, was revived after stalling in the Senate. It now awaits action by the governor.

Other Portantino bills would allow supermarkets and retailers to buy licenses to offer tastings of wine or alcohol; encourage teens to call in cases of alcohol abuse without risking arrest; make it easier for college students to seek available federal financial aid; require health insurers to cover mammograms for women of all ages; and offer insurance breaks to victims of the Station fire.

The Station fire bill gained momentum when Portantino worked with Republicans representing other regions struck by disaster in 2009.

"I try to work in a bipartisan manner with my colleagues," Portantino said. "I'm pleased I've been successful so far and am hopeful the governor will respect and respond to that effort."

Liu said she has cut back on the number of bills she introduced, recalling her days in the state Assembly that lawmakers once averaged as many as 20 bills each year.

"The last couple of years, because of budget considerations, we've made a conscious effort to not introduce a lot of measures," she said.

Her inspiration for legislation comes from her interest in education and her role as chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, she added.

Liu described spending a night in Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla several years ago, where she learned many were in prison for non-violent offenses, and many were mothers.

"So who's caring for the children?" Liu asked.

That visit spurred her proposal to make it easier for incarcerated women to participate in child custody hearings via videoconference. Other Liu bills this year include a measure to boost probes of crimes against the elderly and disabled, streamline the application process for food stamps and make it easier for former foster youth to gain access to government benefits and services.

Much of Gatto's legislative activity centered on the salary scandal in the city of Bell, which so far has resulted in the arrests of eight current and former city officials there. Former Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams, who doubled his salary in Bell before stepping down after one year amid the fallout of reports by The Times, was not among those arrested this week.

Gatto's first bill on the matter — forcing cities to bear the pension burden when they use large salaries to lure city officials from elsewhere — is scheduled for a hearing next month and a legislative vote next year. But he wrote or co-wrote other bills, including a municipal employee salary cap and rules increasing transparency in the California teachers' pension system, CalSTRS.

Gatto is also one of the authors of the bill that would send $11 billion in federal funds to public schools to retain teachers.

Gatto said he doesn't believe in drafting bills for the sake of drafting bills. When he first got to Sacramento in June, he added that he thought the window on introducing legislation largely had passed.

"I was not expecting to have too many opportunities because of the late stage in the term," he said. "But these were so essential to the good government reforms I think we need that I was willing to help push them through the floor and the committees."


The next meeting of the Burbank Democratic Club will focus on upcoming judicial races and a roundtable discussion of topics as the November campaign season peaks.

The meeting takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, at the Burbank Senior Artists' Colony Theatre, 240 E. Verdugo Ave., Burbank. For more information, call (818) 515-5908 or visit http://www.burbankdemocraticclub.com.

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