Tuesday, September 15, 2009
California lawmakers are home after the legislative session ended last week, but they may be coming back to Sacramento sooner than anticipated. We're joined on Morning Edition by non-partisan Sacramento Political Consultant Leo McElroy.
California lawmakers are at home after the regular legislative session ended over the weekend, but they may be coming back to Sacramento sooner than anticipated. We're joined on Morning Edition by non-partisan Sacramento Political Consultant Leo McElroy. Lawmakers, Leo, could be called back for three special sessions: one on water, the other on prison reform, and the third on tax reform. What do you think will come out of these sessions?
LEO MCELROY: Well, I think you’re going to get a lot of tired legislators coming out of them. Whether there’s going to be any real product coming out of that is not very clear. One of the ones that faces the largest hurdle, I think, is the tax restructuring measure. That is going to be a request of the legislature to act on a proposal that comes out of a blue ribbon committee, which will be doing it’s final draft on Sunday, and releasing it on Sunday. The problem is that the governor is saying he wants the legislature to vote it up or down with no changes, yet the commission itself is saying don’t take this as a done deal - this should just be the start of the negotiations, and the start of considering what approaches to take on the problem. This is a very divided commission, and there’s a lot of commissioners that are not real happy with the product that they’re putting out as their final report. So asking the legislature to take this as a straight vote it up or vote it down basis is pretty self-defeating, I think, and pretty impossible to achieve. And water and prison reform have already proved pretty elusive to the legislators. Whether they can move much farther along than they have in the past is pretty questionable on those two.
ALAN RAY: Well, let’s go back to prisons for just a minute. The state has till the end of this week to come up with a two year to reduce prison population by 40,000. As I recall, something like 15,000 was in what passed the legislature. Does that get them close enough to avoiding a federal order?
MCELROY: I think it probably doesn’t. What they’re – the real defense that the state is making is not to diffuse the prison population by reduction plans. The state is basically choosing to appeal to the courts to rescind the federal plan instead, and seeing if they can get relief that way. There seems to be very little political will or political agreement to achieve the full prison reform. The prospect that the governor has put forward, that of releasing older prisoners and non-violent prisoners into what they’re calling “alternative custody” is proving not politically popular. Nobody wants to run for office on the claim he put prisoners back on the street. So it doesn’t look terribly achievable at this point. It doesn’t look like the political will is there to do anything except leave the state in violation of the federal order.
DWANE BROWN: Well, the disharmony in Sacramento continues today. The governor is expected to issue an executive order on renewable energy. Lawmakers passed something similar, but not quite the same. How do you think this renewable energy issue will play out as it relates to utilities companies here?
MCELROY: Well, it’s going to get some really loud screams. The utility companies are a bit split. Several of them, like PG&E, were actually supporting the legislative plan which also was pretty much supported by environmental groups and pretty much authored, or at least tinkered, by the labor unions. Uh, the governor is not happy with it because it essentially puts restrictions on the use of energy credits for out-of-state green power, and most people in the power industry say that they need the ability, during some peak seasons, to buy green power from out of state. The other problem is that green power is definable under these standards as power from coal, and coal is a dirty word in California. The minute you mention coal power people flinch and scream and run and hide under the bed.
RAY: Okay, talk about labor involvement in this renewable energy debate. Are they looking for something like project labor agreements here?
MCELROY: They are looking for a guarantee that essentially the green power will come from California businesses which have labor contracts. That’s really where their push is, and they’ve made it hit not only on the green energy program, the broader one, but also on some specific programs like one that would facilitate the growth of green power through geo-thermals by putting restrictions on that, too. The clout of the labor unions is pretty considerable in the legislature right now and they’ve been felt very strongly on this green energy issue. But those restrictions seem to be flying in the face of where the governor wants to go, and at the same time putting pretty tight restraints on where the legislature can go.
RAY: That’s non-partisan Political Consultant Leo McElroy.