Friday, June 10, 2011

AB 1208 On Shelf Until January

AB 1208, Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon's controversial bill to strip the Judicial Council of virtually all its authority over trial court funding and vest it instead with the local courts, was not one of the bills approved by the Assembly prior to last Friday's (June 3) deadline for bills to clear their house of origin.  The bill thus becomes a "two-year bill," ineligible for further consideration (absent some "they just won't happen" rule waivers requiring a 2/3 vote of the house) until next January (2012).
In one sense, the "parking" of AB 1208 should not have come as a surprise.  After all, Assemblymember Calderon had stated several months back that he proposed to do just that - park the bill on the Assembly Floor as a two-year bill - to give the warring judges, Judicial Council and various lawyer groups time to work things out.

On the other hand, pretty much nothing else about the bill had gone as most legislative court-watchers expected.  Many folks fully expected Assemblymember Calderon to at least push the bill out of the Assembly and over to the Senate, where it could still potentially move forward during the current year (at least until mid-July) without running up against a deadline, thereby keeping up the pressure to negotiate.  Moving the bill to the Senate would also eliminate the potential problem of running into a potential deadline issue next January, when all two-year bills have to clear their house of origin by the end of the month.

With all the strategic reasons seeming to line up in favor of at least moving AB 1208 to the Senate - and after all the effort and alleged intrigue involved in having the bill substantially amended in Appropriations Committee and bringing it to the Floor over the outraged cries of the bill's opponents (see earlier post), it was a big surprise to many that absolutely nothing happened as the week drew to a close. Calderon simply passed whenever an opportunity came to vote on the bill, until eventually the opportunities were gone and the bill still remained on file - where it now will stay until it is moved to the Inactive File, there to remain until next January.

So why wasn't the bill brought up? Opponents of AB 1208 say that the author didn't have the 41 votes needed to get the bill to the Senate. The author disputes that contention, however, and given the numerical dominance of Southern California (and particularly LA) lawmakers in the Assembly, it's a very close call at least. More likely, the inter-party dispute that was taking place at the time between Assembly Republicans and Democrats over the former's right (or lack thereof) to caucus (see earlier post) added enough uncertainty to the issue to make delaying the vote on AB 1208 the wisest choice, since Republican votes clearly were needed to move the bill forward.

Whatever the case, even though AB 1208 itself is off the radar screen for the time being, the issues brought to the forefront by the bill remain, and will continue to percolate during the ongoing budget debate and beyond.

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