CMA Capitol Insight With Anthony York: December 7, 2015
CMA Capitol Insight is a biweekly column by veteran journalist Anthony York, reporting on the inner workings of the state Legislature.
Whirlwind of a week
Jerry Brown set off for Paris but redirected his travel through San Bernardino to meet with law enforcement officials and others on the scene of America’s latest mass shooting.
The shooting seems to occupy some strange place between the Paris attacks, which were orchestrated by ISIS, and a very American-style, Fort Hood or office place violence incident. One of the shooters pledged her allegiance to ISIS on social media before the attacks, but the group did not claim any knowledge of or responsibility for the shootings that left 14 dead in a regional center in the heart of the Inland Empire.
The shooting has prompted a global discussion about the changing face of terrorism, while reigniting the fight over gun control back home. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is pushing a measure for the November 2016 ballot that would outlaw possession of large ammunition magazines and require background checks for anyone trying to purchase ammunition.
For his part, Brown said from Paris, home to the latest ISIS-planned attack, that California’s laws were among the toughest in the nation, but ripped weaker laws in neighboring states.
Upon his arrival in Paris, Brown blasted what he called “wide open” gun laws in Nevada and Arizona, calling them a “gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk.”
Brown has been cautious about his approach to more gun control in California, but in the wake of the recent round of shootings, lawmakers are already lining up to take action. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said he plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit people on the government’s no-fly list from buying guns and certain chemicals that could be used in the manufacture of explosives.
Incidentally, Gatto made news last week when he suddenly dropped his bid for state Senate against former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, in an inland Los Angeles district that some Republicans say could be a potential pick-up in 2016. Portantino feuded with now-Senate leader Kevin de León when the two were in the Assembly, and both had their eye on the speaker’s gavel.
The Capitol was shaken by a pair of resignations last week: Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, the leader of the moderate Democrats, announced he would leave office at the end of the year. Perea was not eligible to seek reelection to his Assembly seat because of term limits.
When the announcement came, rumors swirled about Perea’s future plans, in particular that he would land a government affairs job in time for the 2016 election. Perea insisted that he has no plans lined up but that hasn’t stopped Capitol whispers from circulating. Something tells us we’ll have an update … soon.
Perea’s announcement brought to mind the mid-term resignation of Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio to take a government affairs job at Chevron, raising questions about the revolving door between politics and special interests who work to influence the Capitol.
With less fanfare, but arguably more impact on the Capitol community, Assembly staffer Greg Campbell, who has served as chief of staff to the last several speakers, announced he was leaving his post to start a new lobbying and consulting firm.
Campbell’s transition marks the end of an era in the Capitol — namely the Proposition 140 era. With a revolving door in the speaker’s office (Willie Brown held the post for 15 years. There have been nine speakers in the last 20 years.), Campbell and other senior staff provided the continuity needed to deal with a turbulent political environment.
But with Anthony Rendon prepared to take the gavel in early 2016, we are seeing a change in the dynamics between staff and lawmakers. Rendon will have more than eight years of eligibility to serve in the lower house’s highest office.
But lawmakers are all preparing for Brown’s return from Paris, and the beginning of budget season. The Legislative Analyst’s Office says the state is once again flush with cash, which has inadvertently complicated the fight over the managed care tax. And the California Medical Association and other powerful interests are still refining a tax proposal for the 2016 ballot that would extend the top income tax brackets beyond 2018 and provide a new dedicated stream of health care funding.
Next time, we’ll take a closer look at the state budget preview, and some of the issues that will dominate the discussion in 2016.