(August 21, 2006) -- Two bills crucial to the health and safety of everyone who lives and works in Long Beach and breathes anywhere in the South Coast Air Basin -- SB 760 (levying a container fee to pay for additional security, air quality and rail cargo projects) and SB 764 (establishing pollution baselines for "no net increase" in port related air pollution) -- are effectively being killed by Democrats who control the state Assembly
The bills, authored by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV), have already cleared the State Senate. They're one Assembly floor vote away from being sent to the Governor's desk, where he could sign them or veto them.
It is an outrage that some Democrats appear to have joined in an unholy alliance to kill the Lowenthal bills in advance. We identify our two primary suspects below. Neither of them have returned our telephone calls asking them for their side of the story.
One is Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D., Monterey Park). She chairs the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the last stop before bills reach the Assembly floor. On August 17, Assemblywoman Chu announced at her committee's meeting (which we monitored via internet webcast) that Sen. Lowenthal's bills were on hold. That prevents them from getting out of her committee and reaching the Assembly floor for a final vote unless the full Assembly waives its rules (by majority vote until Aug. 29).
Those waivers happen...but they won't happen unless Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D., L.A.) agrees. He's the Assembly Democrats' leader, and he decides what bills the Democrat-majority Assembly will take up or kill.
Here's how they did it on another hot button issue on the same day as Chu blocked the Lowenthal bills. Dems didn't want a controversial driver's license bill to come up in the November election cycle -- a bill for which many Dems had previously voted. Assemblywoman Chu did what she did with Lowenthal's bills: she blocked the bill in her committee...and Assembly Speaker Nuñez could pretend she was responsible and not he.
Assemblywoman Chu is a lame duck lawmaker, now seeking a post on the State Board of Equalization. (LB residents can vote against her in November but she's favored to win right now.)
So...who told Assembly Speaker Nuñez and Assemblywoman Chu to kill the Lowenthal bills? We dunno...but it must have been some people or some interest group(s) with an awful lot of clout in Democrat circles.
Under the circumstances, taxpayers and voters have no choice but to respond with hardball to match these politicians' spitballs.
If Sacramento kills the Lowenthal bills now, voters should kill the port expansion bond in November. No sane voter should invite more containers, more ships, more trucks and more trains without the protections of SB 764's "no net increase" statutory teeth and SB 760's container fee for clean-air amd security projects
We urge taxpayers not to settle for more plans with more promises and more lipservice. It's now or never.
If Sen. Lowenthal's bills don't become law in an election year when a Port bond measure is on the ballot, they never will.
If Democrats kill the bills, voters should kill the port expansion bond.