Hits and misses

Strange fruit: Sometimes Bites has to gnaw down to the marrow of a topic in order to find the humor. Other times, Bites simply steps out of the way and allows the joke to tell itself. This is one of those get-out-of-the-way times—which demands a moment of pensive silence, since we’re talking about laws that may someday govern this great state.

Legislators voted on a flurry of proposed laws last week, passing the buck of bad decisions off to the other side of the Capitol before a Friday deadline. Now, Assembly members have to up-or-down Senate ideas, and state senators have to shuffle through the maddening list of Assembly proposals.

So, here is a sampling of hits and misses—the fruits of your elected officials’ labor over the past several months.

California prisoners may be able to receive condoms while behind bars, thanks to Assembly Democrats, who, on a party-line vote, approved a bill that would require prison directors to allow health-care agencies and nonprofits to distribute condoms in prisons. Keep in mind that sexual activity in prison is a felony. So, cast another way, the Assembly has voted to encourage safe felonies.

Assembly Bill 1677 was written by West Hollywood Democrat Paul Koretz, who makes Bites’ list twice more. Once for his championing of the domestic ferret (Assembly Bill 647); the annual bill looking to legalize the weasel-like polecat descendants passed off the Assembly floor on a 68-6 vote. And another time for his People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals-inspired attempt to stop the practice of cropping a dog’s ears. Assembly Bill 418 was clipped in committee in April.

San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno tried twice to get enough votes for Assembly Bill 19, which would have legalized gender-neutral marriage. On the second count, it failed 37-36. Blame the seven Assembly members who sat out the vote.

Proponents of the assisted-suicide bill, Assembly Bill 654—which would have allowed terminally ill people to get prescriptions for death-hastening medication—pulled the bill just before a vote on the Assembly floor, sensing it did not have the necessary support.

But, if you can’t have a say in how you die, at least you will know that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball team is actually from where it says it’s from. Assembly Bill 1041 by Assemblyman Tom Umberg, D-Anaheim, would ban professional sports teams from adopting a city name unless they play the majority of games there or get permission from a city. And it passed 52-17.

And Marina del Rey Democrat Senator Debra Bowen busied herself by trying to ban Californians from hunting game over the Internet. One Texas company offered the chance to cyber-hunt. By all accounts, there have been few to no takers. Still, 25 senators voted to prevent such a tragedy, while seven voted against it.

Speaking of putting holes in flesh, it soon may be illegal again to pierce a minor without parental consent. A 1997 law expired in January, but Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, successfully passed a bill out of the Assembly to reinstate it. So, pierce while you can. If it becomes law, doing so will carry a $250 fine.

Building a better Buddha: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” That was the advice Kevin Spidel offered a room full of Sacramento activists Saturday morning. The former national field director for Kucinich for President, Spidel was in town with fellow organizer Sherry Bolen and Truthout (at www.truthout.org) author William Rivers Pitt to launch the local chapter of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

Spidel’s reference to the Zen motto came in response to an audience question about how Republicans have effectively taken their marching orders from George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. When asked who on the left could show that kind of leadership, Spidel dismissed the cult-of-personality approach.

The irony, of course, is that PDA—or, at least, Spidel—isn’t exactly egoless. He later confessed a fervent desire for the group to “take over” the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the organization that does grassroots outreach for the Democratic Party.

PDA isn’t alone in that quest: A number of other organizations, including MoveOn.org, also are determined to return the Democratic Party to its more populist roots. These days, that’s a task that will require the supernatural powers—and the patience—of a Buddha.