See no evil, vote no evil

No wonder he wants them part time: Would our state lawmakers pass a bill that virtually none of them had actually read? OK, naive question. But what if it was something really, really important, like workers’-compensation reform? That’s what prompted Doug Heller from the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights to issue an “I Read It and I Get It” challenge to California lawmakers last week, offering $1,000 to the favorite charity of the first legislator who would (1) certify that he or she had read the whole bill, and (2) correctly answer 10 questions about its contents.

“Nobody was up to the challenge,” Heller told Bites. The event would have taken place Friday morning in the Capitol rotunda, just before the vote. Heller got a call late in the afternoon from Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, saying she had read the whole bill. “She was one of the few that actually voted against it,” he added.

There were some practical impediments to legislators reading—let alone vetting or understanding— the workers’-comp bill, including the fact that the final 77-page version wasn’t finished until Thursday morning at 3:30 a.m., following a long night of whittling it down from its hundreds-of-pages-long predecessor. Never mind misspellings and gibberish (“of which there are plenty,” said Heller), such late-night “whacking” is likely to create substantive problems.

Heller also is disappointed in the governor, who rushed the bill though by threatening to take his initiative to the ballot box if legislators didn’t approve it immediately. “No more backroom deals, nothing being shoved through the Legislature at the last minute—this is what he was going to do away with,” said Heller of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign promises, “whereas this is exactly what he did with this bill.”

Then again, Arnold had California voters on his side—at least the 5 percent whose signatures were gathered for three bucks apiece. And what about those signatures he gathered personally, which cost considerably more? “He was paid a half a million dollars from the insurance industry,” said Heller. “Those might be the most expensive signatures ever collected.”

Of course, the bill has no provision for passing savings along to California businesses—unless they happen to be insurance companies.

Knight moves: The gay press got plenty of mileage from comments Senator Pete Knight recently made to SN&R about the bill to allow gay marriage now navigating the Assembly. Knight, R-Palmdale, is the author of Proposition 22, a gay-marriage ban passed by California voters in 2000. He said he’d drop his opposition to civil unions and expanded rights for domestic partners—which he’s fighting in court—if gay-rights activists dropped their push for same-sex marriage.

Knight went on medical leave a few days after the article came out, which led at least one gay-news outlet to imply a connection between Knight’s apparent change of heart and what it described as his “meltdown.” The senator’s office, however, issued a statement saying he would be out for a while “undergoing medical-related testing.” Knight spokesman David Orosco wouldn’t say when the senator would return or provide details of his condition.

Actually, Knight may have found a good time to be gone. Although it once appeared Assembly Democratic leaders would sit on the gay-marriage bill and kill it quietly, the measure ended up being approved last week to pass go, collect $200 and get its first committee hearing. On Tuesday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted to approve it.

Good riots make bad neighbors: As every University of California, Davis, student knows, the night before Picnic Day is the party night of the year in the bucolic burg that is Davis. But last Friday night’s party was the first to turn into a riot. A partying mob of students at the upscale Sterling Apartments on Cantrill Drive got drunk as hell, hung off second- and third-floor balconies and threw empty bottles (of beer, presumably) at police officers, who returned in full riot gear bearing pepper spray and tear gas, both of which reportedly were used to subdue the students.

The Davis Enterprise buried the incident in its Sunday edition—nothing on its Web site as of Monday—which is strange, given the newsiness of such an event taking place in peace-loving Davis. Nor did the paper report that riot central, the swank Sterling, is literally across the street from the Davis Police Department headquarters. Mr. Rogers would shed a tear.