According to the author
Analyses of some major bills often contain anything-but-objective descriptions
Information is power. Possessing the necessary amount yields sound and strategic decisions. Faulty or incomplete understanding creates the opposite result.
Back in the early 1960s, legendary Assembly Speaker Jesse M. Unruh said one of the principal benefits of a full-time Legislature would be independent analysis.
No longer would legislators be trapped in a Hobson’s choice of warring claims by special-interest chiselers. Instead, armed with a comprehensive and balanced appraisal of every issue, they could render Solomon-like judgment.
The Legislature produces plenty of analyses. For every bill considered, each policy committee prepares a document that says what the proposed change in law does, who supports it, who doesn’t and why.
A separate analysis is also generated when a measure reaches either the Senate or the Assembly floor.
Scads of information is contained in these write-ups. Except a lot of it isn’t independent and can often be both inaccurate and out-of-date.
One bill passed in 2012 had been kicking around for so long that the language recycled from previous analyses referred to a “recent” study that was actually more than six years old.
Anyone check if newer research might contradict the somewhat cobwebbed results used in support of the bill? Not likely.
Pick an analysis for any piece of legislation. There’ll be a section called “Comments” or “Background.” The first words in that section almost always are: “According to the author.”
Golly, who better to provide an unflinchingly honest assessment of a bill’s merits and demerits than the individual who wants it to become law so desperately that they’re willing to put their name across the top and shepherd it through the Legislature?
Perhaps that’s why no analysis has ever quoted a legislative author saying: “Given the complexities and scope of California’s many vexing problems, this bill is less significant than a speck of fly poop and should be quickly killed in committee.”
Or: “The purpose of this greasy piece of moldy cheese is to curry favor with slick operators who routinely replenish the campaign kitty and stand to obscenely profit—at taxpayer expense—should this abomination be signed by the governor.”
Often, information provided by the author isn’t attributed, making it appear to be part of the independent analysis when it’s anything but.
While the analyses of “major” bills do include sections summarizing the opposing and supporting arguments, often the only “information” available in judging the impact of “noncontroversial” legislation is the author’s anything-but-objective description.
In many cases, that description is written for the legislator by the outside entity or interest group behind the bill.
This year, a real-estate investment firm needed an exemption from state law to keep two pieces of property upon which gambling either does or will occur. One is a card club in Southern California. The other a Nevada casino and hotel being built at the former site of the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The principal clients of the investment firm owning the properties are state public employee pensions, including California’s.
Preceded by “information provided by the author’s office,” all 12 of the analyses of the exemption bill say this: “the Hollywood Park Racetrack and card club is owned by a group of public pension plan investors.”
What a nutty coincidence.
That’s also the first sentence of the handout lobbyists backing the bill used to describe what it does. The next three paragraphs of the lobbyist document are also identical to the Senate-floor analysis of the bill as well as several earlier committee analyses.
The actual bill the analyses summarize says the exemption only applies to limited partnerships in which “at least 80 percent” are institutional investors like public pension funds.
Maybe the limited partnership that owns the card club and the Sahara properties is 99.9 percent public-pension money. Then again, maybe only 80 percent is. Either way, at best, the pensions are majority owners. Who else is benefitting from this exemption?
According to the author.