Lots of legislation at State Capitol, but less than before

12:29 AM, Feb 26, 2013   |    comments
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Just shy of 2,200 proposed laws were introduced in the two houses of the California Legislature by the constitutional deadline -- which sounds like a lot, until you consider it's the smallest batch of bills in years.

Legislators had until the end of Friday to submit bill language. Senators offered up 813 proposed bills, plus another 56 measures including constitutional amendments and resolutions. Members of the Assembly proposed 1,376 bills, with 60 additional measures to amend the constitution or express the opinion of the Legislature on a national or civic issue.

Data provided by both chambers show the 2013 crop of bills to be noticeably smaller than in times past; in fact, it's the smallest number of Assembly bills at the start of the two-year session since at least 2003, and the smallest in the Senate since 1999.

Legislative leaders have cracked down in recent years on the total number of bills that rank and file legislators can submit. Some Capitol watchers have wondered, too, whether the bumper crop of freshmen -- the largest in the Assembly in a generation -- are also part of the story, sensing that new term limits rules give them many more years to make their political mark in Sacramento.

The bills run the gamut of just about everything you could imagine legislators wanting to examine... and some things you'd wonder why they'd ever want to examine.

High profile fights, from bills designed to curb gun violence to implementing federal health care changes as well as debates over the state's landmark environmental protection law, are all well represented.

So, too, are what are called "district bills" -- those that pertain solely to some issue back home for a legislator.  Many of these, unless they become unexpectedly controversial, get green-lighted through the process.

Some relatively small debates are doubly -- or triple-y -- represented.  Two bills introduced in the final hours of last week deal with charging a tasting fee for distilled spirits.  Two bills also would legalize industrial hemp in California, virtually a perennial debate.

Others seem particularly narrow in scope, such as the legislation to use "animal shelter" in place of the word "pound" through state government rules and regulations.

And then many bills simply don't say much at all. Yet, at least. Legislators routinely beat the deadline with a number of "intent bills," also known as "spot bills."  They simply hold a spot, as it were, in line for when the lawmaker and others agree on the language of a given issue -- thus showing an "intent" to legislate.

In other words, this is only the beginning of the long and winding legislative season at the Capitol.


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