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Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner


            When the November election gave the Democrats a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, press reports quickly focused on whether they would use this dominance to raise taxes. Trial balloons were floated, and the danger of tax increases has not passed, but those initial fears have so far proven unwarranted. The governor has engaged in some mostly responsible budgeting. I would make different choices in many respects – for example, our court system is being decimated and needs significant further funding. But some of the governor’s budget choices have been quite reasonable and he is proceeding on appropriately conservative assumptions.

            Fortunately, the Democrats have not yet used their supermajority to spend wantonly. Unfortunately, though, spending money is only one of the things a legislature does. Another is the passing of even more laws to burden the public, and in that task, the supermajority has proven every bit as pernicious as Republicans feared right after the election.

            Consider that, in just one week recently, two committees on which I serve passed the following bills:

  • AB 460 (Ammiano) – this bill requires the insurance coverage of “infertility treatment” for anyone, without discrimination. What’s wrong with that? Well, under this bill, “anyone” includes people who are not infertile. Rather, it includes people who “cannot” conceive children because they do not to engage in the behavior that causes children. According to the bill, it intends to clarify the law pertaining to same-sex couples. Now, insurance policies already, and appropriately, contain anti-discrimination language. But it is not discrimination to treat differently people who are in fact differently situated. Under this bill, the costs of insurance for everyone will inevitably rise to cover treatment for a select few made “infertile” by their personal behavior and not for any medical reason.
  • AB 375 (Buchanan) – this bill slickly tries to fix a public relations disaster the Democrats experienced last year when the CTA killed a popular teacher dismissal bill. So outrageous was the CTA’s action that even Anderson Cooper of CNN couldn’t resist covering the story and exposing the CTA’s misconduct. One Democrat member of the legislature even arguably lost her seat over this issue. This bill was then introduced to “reform” the process by which teachers are disciplined or dismissed. It sounds like a good bill, and does have some good parts to it. But it also contains a “poison pill” provision requiring the resolution of any discipline case within a completely unreasonable seven month timeline. This provision could undermine the entire bill by requiring that when discipline procedures don’t finish on time they potentially start all over again. It allows Democrats to fix nothing, but say they fixed the problem that Cooper and CNN highlighted.
  • AB 729 (Hernández) – this bill creates a union organizer/employee “privilege.” Like the well-recognized attorney/client, or doctor/patient privileges, under this measure a union member and a union organizer could simply refuse to testify in a court about conversations between them. It is not only unprecedented in American law, but the privilege as defined in the bill is evenbroader than the existing attorney or doctor privileges.
  • AB 299 (Holden) – this bill prohibits pharmacies from contracting with a health plan or disability insurer that requires mail-order service only to fill prescriptions. It severely limits the ability of health plans to offer much cheaper mail-only prescription re-fill services. The effect will be to raise costs, and an unintended but inevitable consequence of increased costs will be a reduction in compliance. The bill was sponsored – no surprise here – by the California Pharmacists Association which stands to benefit from the increased foot traffic in their member pharmacies and the increased prices in the medications they dispense.
  • AB 880 (Gomez) – this bill requires large private employers to pay a health care penalty, beyond anything in Obamacare, if any of their employees enroll in Medi-Cal. The purpose of this labor sponsored bill is to force those employers to raise wages. It comes on the heels of several large employers announcing, to absolutely no one’s surprise, that they would have to cut wages and benefits in order to deal with the mess and the cost that will be the implementation of Obamacare. (For what it’s worth, the author of this bill is touted as one of the leading candidates to be the next Speaker of the Assembly, which gives you some indication of the mindset of Democrats with respect to what they want in a leader.)
  • AB 1336 (Frazier) – this bill quadruples the amount of time a union can file so-called “prevailing wage” claims. Alleged by the proponents to be an effort at reducing the underground economy, it actually makes it harder for employers to defend themselves from union strike suits. It also has some provisions buried within it that substantially compromise individual privacy, giving union organizers significant access to workers’ private and personal information.

            Now, all of that and much more came in just one week in just two committees. Other committees were also busily handling crazy bills, which then got to the floor and passed. I’ll let you know about some of those bills in a few days.