Ciao for now

Breaking ranks: Legislators can thank Assemblyman Anthony Pescetti for the month-long vacation they leave for on Friday. Actually, they should probably thank the Democratic leaders who bribed the Rancho Cordova Republican into voting for the state budget, the passage of which was a prerequisite for summer recess to begin.

Under the strong-arm leadership of another local Republican—Assembly GOP leader Dave Cox of Fair Oaks—Republicans in the lower house had been blocking the budget passage for the last two weeks, ostensibly to win a permanent cut in the sales tax.

In reality, it was just the paltry Republican minority trying to seem relevant during a time when the GOP has fallen out of favor with Californians. And with the budget requiring a two-thirds vote to pass, this was their one big chance to portray Democrats as tax-and-spend greedheads.

But that charade ended this week when Democrats eager for relaxation and flesh-pressing back in the districts dangled some choice cuts of pork in front of Pescetti and three other Republicans, who gobbled down the booty and ended the budget stalemate.

Pescetti secured $5.35 million in grants for cops in his district, $1.5 million for the Elk Grove Senior Center, $40,000 for stadium lights at Cordova High School and, perhaps the biggest meatball of all, a cool half-million dollars for the Italian Cultural Society of Sacramento. Ché carico di porco!

Politics is ugly business, especially when the bribery gets as blatant as this, but Bites doesn’t fault Big Tony for his vote. With his conciliatory work this session as vice-chair of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee and the Special Committee on Energy Costs and Reliability, Pescetti has avoided the partisan ideologue role fashioned by many of his GOP colleagues on energy and other issues.

And given the fact that his party’s blockage of the budget was a hollow political ploy, Pescetti was right to grab the pork and run, so legislators can get the hell out of town, something that Bites believes all of us can support about now.

Class dismissed: The departure of the Legislature came despite yet another empty threat by Governor Gray Davis who, like my tyrannical fifth-grade teacher Mr. Bullard, said he would keep the whole class there during recess if we didn’t behave.

The occasion was last week’s press conference on the failed energy rebate settlement talks that Davis called to beat up on the power companies and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It was fairly typical, with Davis reciting his poll-tested criticisms and illogical rationalizations.

But things got interesting when Dan Walters, the Bee columnist who beats up on the governor almost as often as Bites does, pointed out that since Davis’ bailout of Southern California Edison relies on the rebates he has failed to attain, isn’t the Edison deal pretty much dead?

And that’s when Davis seemingly lost all composure and brain function, caught like a deer in headlights, slack-jawed and frozen, before mumbling some kind of incoherent nonsense about how the Legislature needs to act on its own, independent of the FERC.

But Walters pressed the point, noting that the Edison deal expires August 15, and that the Legislature will be leaving town July 20, before the FERC will get around to ordering any kind of rebates. So isn’t the Edison deal dead, thus threatening to send another California utility into bankruptcy court?

On the ropes and getting pummeled, Davis lashed back by declaring that he could call another special session to keep the Legislature here during its recess to vote on the Edison package, a sweetheart deal that was not well-received by legislators.

“Thank you, governor,” Davis press secretary Steve Maviglio chimed in suddenly, ending the press conference and trying to stop the flow of political blood coming from his boss.

Responding to the threat the next day, legislative leaders declared that they’ll be more than happy to vote down the Edison deal before they leave town, and Senate leader John Burton scoffed at Davis’ empty threat, noting only the Legislature, not the governor, can vote to extend its session into the recess.

With a dysfunctional state government like this, is it any wonder why Bites patted Pescetti on the back for letting these people have some time off to regain their senses?