Wanna get away

On legislation, procrastination—and vacation

Greg Lucas’ state-politics column Capitol Lowdown appears every other week in SN&R. He also blogs at www.californiascapitol.com.

Politicians aren’t spawned from a different mix of genetic goo than other mortals. They have kids. Spouses. Cats that claw the living-room furniture. Leaky faucets. Soccer. In-laws. Misplaced car keys.

They also go on vacation to Tahoe, Hawaii, Disneyland. Sometimes even Disney World. Just like real people. Depending on the age of their kiddos, tours of California missions or universities.

A large number of California politicians are vacationing at this very moment. July is when the Legislature takes a four-week hiatus after what lawmakers apparently consider six months of Herculean labor to recharge for the rigors of the final weeks of the 2013 legislative session.

For example, Gov. Jerry Brown and First Lady Ann Gust are visiting Ireland and Germany, rooting around in Brown’s family roots. They return Saturday.

Legislative staff, lobbyists and others who enjoy symbiotic relationships with the Legislature vacation in July as well. Particularly those with kids in school.

Those without kids at home have additional opportunities for leisure between mid-September, when the Legislature splits for the year, and January 2014, when the solons return to solving California’s problems.

No autumn respite is possible for the executive branch. The Teutonic Spouter of Blarney in the Capitol’s corner office and his gallant budgeteers must present a new state budget early in January detailing how more than $145 billion gets spent. That pretty much kills any chance for a few days in Bali during November and December.

Those 30 days after the Legislature blows town are also shot to hell. That’s all the time Brown gets to determine which important public-policy reforms passed by the Legislature deserve to become law and which deserve to be shitcanned.

Hence the no doubt reluctant decision by the Browns to visit The Continent during July, the month when America disgorges the year’s highest number of tourists, largely of the feckless variety, onto European soil.

Imagine enduring that kind of suffering to avoid missing a single action-packed moment of the final weeks of the 2013 legislative session, which begins either August 5 or August 12.

For the first time in 50 years, the Senate and the Assembly have different summer-recess schedules. What used to be the final month for the Legislature is now the final five weeks for the Assembly because of a few extra days of committee hearings.

The two houses still agree to adjourn until next year on September 13.

Assembly Speaker John Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat, says his house’s changed schedule is an improvement.

“The calendar we adopted offers everyone a chance to give more attention to their legislation. That benefits the policy process by allowing more time to consider all the issues before we head into the end-of-session crush,” said John Vigna, a spokesman for Pérez.

Really? The “end-of-session crush” week begins September 9. That’s 40 weeks after the members of both houses were sworn in on December 3, 2012. It’s 35 weeks after both houses reconvened on January 7.

September 9 is 28 weeks after the February 22 deadline for the members of both houses to introduce legislation.

The 12 weeks from December 3 through February 22 proved ample time for lawmakers of both houses to introduce 2,189 pieces of legislation.

Seems like seven months is more than enough time to “consider all the issues.” If more time for deliberation is needed, introduce less legislation.

So whatever the reason is for the Assembly’s changed schedule, it’s not to benefit the “policy process.”

An additional week of Assembly committee hearings won’t reduce the flurry of last-minute amendments and fevered passage of hundreds of largely unscrutinized bills that always occurs during the “end-of-session crush.”

The inability of the two houses of the same Legislature to agree on a mutual work schedule does, however, demonstrate a remarkably high level of dysfunction.

To say nothing of really mucking up vacation plans.