Paging Bob Beverly and Ralph Dills, Please Come Immediately to the Senate Rostrum, Your Services Are Urgently Required
The state Senate has traditionally been the more decorous, less strident house of California’s Legislature. Republicans and Democrats tended to tilt mightily as adversaries but not engage in the sniping or juvenile one-upmanship antics of the more fractious Assembly.
Regrettably, with the advent of term limits, most senators are now graduates, if that’s the correct term, of the Assembly. In the absence of senior, long-sitting senators, these graduates, regardless of party, are not disabused of any of the bad habits learned in the lower house.
During the march 17 floor session in which the Senate passed both a budget bill and a half dozen other measures to implement it, the most contention was generated over transferring from state prisons to county jails the incarceration responsibility for hundreds of “low-level,” non-violent felonies.
Several Republican senators – all recent graduates of the Assembly – said, albeit not quite as overtly, that the measure would make it easier for numerous Willie Hortons to prey upon the state’s law-abiding citizens.
One Republican senator noted that persons convicted of conspiracy to commit a crime against the president, governor, a judge or a variety of other public officials would now be confined in county jail.
The GOP senator did not say that while the location of the guilty party’s confinement changes, he penalty for the crime does not.
Similarly, persons participating in a lynching would do jail time as would someone convicted of knowingly selling firearms to a member of a street gang or selling controlled substances in a park to someone younger than 14 years of age.
No mention was made of some of the other felonies that now will be punished with a jail rather than prison sentence.
Among them: Bribe a player in an athletic event, install inoperable fire-protection systems or sell, dispense, administer or prescribe “preparations containing diphenylamine, paraphenylenediamine or paratoluylenediamine or a derivative of any such chemicals, to be used as eyebrow and eyelash dye.”
After cataloguing her objections to the 663-page measure, AB 109, Sen. Sharon Runner, a Lancaster Republican, urged Californians to protect themselves by purchasing a gun, a dog and an alarm system. She has done two of the three, she told her colleagues.
Her tagline became a coda for subsequent Republican senators speaking against the bill.
Among them, Sen. Joel Anderson, a La Mesa Republican and veteran of six years in the Assembly. Like Runner, he said he had already accomplished two of the three.
When senators ended their “debate” of the bill, Sen. Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat and chair of the upper house’s budget committee, was asked to offer a closing summary of the bill’s impact.
In that closing, Leno referred to the Republicans as the “party of no.” If someone were to listen to their claims about the effect of the bill’s passage, Leno said, they would believe “the sky will fall and civilization will come to an end.”
After roll call was taken and the bill approved, Sen. Bob Huff, a Glendora Republican, who although a former Assemblyman has been a member of the upper house since 2008, demanded an apology for Leno’s remarks.
“We were termed the ‘party of no’ when, in fact, we are (expressing) our concern for the safety of our electorate,” Huff said.
Had the late GOP Sen. Bob Beverly and the late Democratic Sen. Ralph Dills been at the rostrum, just to pick two of Kehoe’s pre-1996 predecessors, Huff would have been swiftly found to be out-of-order or his point “not well taken.”
Assuming, of course, a statement like Huff’s would have ever been made by a member of the Senate during Dills and Beverly’s time.
Kehoe, however, attempted to smooth huff’s ruffled feathers.
“Both sides feel this is a hypercritical discussion,” she said of the debate over the bill. “I’d like to leave it at that.”
He and his fellow GOP colleagues were “vilified,” he continued. “We can call names too but we do not want to lower ourselves to that level.”
Not to defend Leno or dismiss Huff’s argument, but prior to the discussion of AB 109 several budget-related bills had been brought up and debated. All initially required a two-thirds vote in order for them to take effect immediately.
To reach 27 votes required an “Aye” from two GOP senators.
When those two votes were not forthcoming, the urgency was stripped from the bill and they were passed on majority votes, with Republicans voting “no.”
In addition, all GOP senators speaking about AB 109 opposed the measure.
When Kehoe couldn’t placate Huff, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg tried.
Steinberg’s attempts at bridge-building included noting that “get a gun, get a dog, get an alarm system” was the “same sort of emotional statement our budget chair made.”
In conclusion, Steinberg implored: “Let’s keep it calm.”
But it was Leno who, like Kehoe, tends toward terminal niceness that tried to end the tiff.
“I’m happy to apologize to anyone for that provocation. I’m very sorry,” he said, facing Huff at the back of the Senate chambers.
Anderson, fresh from the Assembly, said he too apologized if it angered Leno to be told the truth about Californians needing a dog, a gun or an alarm system if AB 109 were signed into law.
Kehoe allowed as to how that wasn’t a terribly helpful remark.
Later in the floor session, Senate GOP Leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga said he would bring his two labs to the Capitol if any senator wanted to use them for protection.
At no point, however, did any senator suggest settling the issue once and for all by duking it out after school over by the tetherball courts.
Filed under: Venting
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