Tuesday, May 31, 2011

AB 1208 Clears Appropriations Committee; Floor Fight Likely?

The Assembly Appropriations Committee was also kind to Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon's controversial court funding bill, AB 1208, on Friday, sending the bill to the Assembly Floor on a solid 14-1 vote and setting up what appears likely to be a very interesting floor battle on the bill this week.

The committee's vote came over over strong opposition from the Judicial Council, Commission on Access to Justice, Consumer Attorneys of California, California Defense Counsel, and others (see arguments pro and con in Assembly Floor analysis) - as well as over outraged allegations that the most recent amendments to the bill were inconsistent with the agreement that permitted the bill to be approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee (see earlier post). The vote isn't really surprising, however, given the composition of the committee; not only is Assm. Calderon a member of the committee, but there is essentially no commonality with the membership of the Judiciary Committee (the only common member is Orange County Republican Don Wagner) and the Appropriations Committee membership is made up largely of lawmakers from Los Angeles (whose court strongly supports AB 1208) and Orange County.

The question is what happens next with the bill. Earlier in the year, Assm. Calderon suggested that he would be willing to move AB 1208 to the Assembly Floor and park it there until 2012, while the judges/courts supporting the bill and the measure's opponents (beginning with Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye) tried to work out their differences. At this point, however, it seems more likely that Assm. Calderon will seek to move the bill to the Senate, leaving open the possibility (or threat, depending on one's viewpoint) that it could be enacted this year if accommodation of some sort is not reached.

We'll know the answer to that question by this coming Friday (June 3), the legislative deadline for bills introduced in the current year to pass their house of origin.

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