It seemed like a sure bet for another display of California’s ultra-blue “Resistance”: Fresh with outrage over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the Democratic-dominated California Assembly considered a bill to curb both global warming and air pollution.
But in a surprising twist that illustrated how California’s Legislature isn’t as knee-jerk liberal as the rest of the country thinks, the lower house rejected the closely watched climate bill late Thursday night. To the dismay of environmentalists, it fell eight votes short amid a force that even politicians in Sacramento are not immune to: industry opposition.
“I think it really does highlight the really challenging, very diverse politics of the Assembly,” said Amy Vanderwarker, co-director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance.
Within its Democratic supermajority, California’s 80-member state Assembly includes business-friendly moderates known as “Mod Dems” who heed the state Chamber of Commerce’s list of “job-killer” bills.
And then there are the Democratic legislators from swing districts in more conservative parts of the state. With their seats on the line every two years, Assembly members are in constant campaign-mode.
The Assembly’s political complexity could doom big proposals coming its way this summer from the more predictably progressive Senate — from bail reform to universal health care.
The health care measure, by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would replace private health insurance in California with a government-run health care system that has energized the party’s Bernie Sanders supporters and other progressives. But it’s sure to have a cooler reception among more centrist Democrats.
The universal health care bill passed out of the Senate Thursday without a funding plan, but it has long odds of making it through the Assembly — especially once it includes the tax provisions needed to pay for it. Tax increases require a two-thirds vote in each house.
Asked to predict the bill’s chances in the Assembly, Assemblyman Adam Gray, a moderate Democrat from Merced, responded, “I would think zero.”
Gray called the Senate’s decision to release the bill without funding details an example of “juvenile, irresponsible government.”
Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, said California’s progressive proposals will generally hit “two very big and very realistic speed bumps: a handful of lawmakers who listen to the business community and act accordingly, and the second speed bump is (Gov.) Jerry Brown.”