California is a deep blue state, which sits sharply and proudly to the left of the country’s political axis.
The Californian legislature, totally dominated by the Democrats, leans a little more to the port side of the political scale.
That said, there are ideological fault lines within Democratic legislative supermajorities, some quite obvious, others weak. Their existence explains why the results are not always as predictable as one might think, given the dominance of a single party.
A prime example of this unpredictability is what happened, or did not happen, over legislation to overhaul medical care by having the state assume full control of its provision – a holy grail long standing for progressive activists in the Democratic Party.
The state Senate passed a version of the single-payer legislation in a previous session, but it stalled in the Assembly. Last year a new version, Assembly Bill 1400, made its way fairly easily through Assembly committees to the floor, but when the Legislative Assembly reconvened in January, it eventually died there without a vote.
“I don’t think it would have served the cause of getting single payer by staging the vote and making it inflamed and further alienating members,” the bill’s author later said. , San Jose Democrat Ash Kalra to disappointed supporters. He added that the measure, requiring 41 votes to pass, was short by “double digits”.
Governor Gavin Newsom, who had been a strong advocate for single-payer health care during his gubernatorial campaign, made no effort to secure votes in the Assembly and most members were not apparently unwilling, in an election year, to vote for something that would require a huge tax increase to implement.
The disappearance of AB 1400 was, among other things, another victory for the California Chamber of Commerce’s “job killer” list, an annual exercise by the state’s business community to identify and block the legislation it considers the most onerous.
For a quarter of a century, the list has served as a guide to the Capitol’s ideological temperature, as it typically includes the highest-priority legislation of those on the left, such as labor unions and environmental and consumer protection advocates. .
Although the legislature has tended to drift left since the list was first published in 1997, the chamber and its allies have recorded a staggering death toll. Typically, several dozen bills are placed on the slate, and it is rare for more than one or two to pass the Legislature and sign the Governor.
In 2021, for example, 25 invoices were targeted, and only two reached Newsom’s office. He vetoed one and signed the other, Senate Bill 62, which eliminates piece-rate payment for workers in the garment industry.
The House’s record of more than 90% in stopping bills it calls “job killers” faces another test this year. He released a preliminary list of 11 bills and more will be added later.
The 2022 list includes a new ‘wealth tax’ for the state’s wealthiest residents, a bill that would allow workers to refuse to perform their jobs if they feel unsafe and an extension from the mitigation provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act to effects on disadvantaged communities.
These last two, along with several others, would expand the avenues for legal action to enforce their provisions – renewing the annual contest between business groups and personal injury lawyers over who can sue what action, dubbed “ criminal wars”.
Crucially, the fate of the bills on this year’s slate will be another indicator of how far the legislature is willing to go.
CALmatters is a public interest journalism company committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending most of those years working for California newspapers.