Grown-ups return to Sacramento

californiacap.jpgWhatever happened to dysfunction? The legislature wrapped up a productive session that had a decidedly centrist tone - despite fears that the Democrats' hold on the Assembly and Senate would be a return to the days of reckless spending. Not having to worry about massive budget deficits certainly made things easier, as did the ongoing woes of California Republicans. What a difference a couple of years make - we'll see how long it lasts. From the Daily News:

Contrary to the bravado expressed by some liberal Democrats early in the year, the Legislature did not pass any new taxes or make it easier for voters to enact tax hikes -- and they abandoned plans to water down California's landmark Proposition 13, which caps both residential and commercial property taxes. To be sure, by the time their session ended late Thursday night, legislators had approved small spending increases to a few social services programs, passed a new round of gun-control measures, boosted the minimum wage by 25 percent and approved giving illegal immigrants driver's licenses. But the lawmakers on the far left who had proposed the most aggressive agenda were for the most part silenced. "The governor and legislative leaders seemed to have been able to rein them in -- maybe not on everything, but on most things," said Dan Schnur, a former GOP operative who now heads USC's Unruh Institute of Politics.

LAT columnist George Skelton says there's more of a grown-up vibe in Sacramento, pointing to a loosening of term limits, the new primary system that allows the two biggest vote-getters, regardless of party, to run in the general election, and an honest redistricting system that avoids gerrymandering. An example of this new-found maturity was legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to have driver's licenses.

The author, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), announced last week that he was shelving the bill for the year. Labor had objected to the measure's placing a special mark on the license that indicated the holder was undocumented. Latino senators were outraged at the bill's shelving. And so was the governor. "Send me the bill and I'll sign it," Brown promised Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles). So De Leon -- in what surely was a legislative first -- hijacked a fellow Democrat's bill without telling him and ramrodded it through the Senate. Alejo then felt compelled to carry it through the Assembly. "We don't have the luxury to consider abstract esoteric concepts of purity when it comes to undocumented immigrants," De Leon told me. "They're working people with real lives who need driver's licenses now." That's an example of independent, protocol-be-damned thinking that certainly hasn't been commonplace in the Capitol. There also was a new pragmatism among lawmakers that led to compromise.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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