Two-Year Bill Deadline Passes

The deadline for measures introduced in 2011, also known as two-year bills, to pass their house of origin was this past Tuesday.  There were a few controversial bills debated on the respective Floors this past week.

One such bill was AB 1148 by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica).  This bill would require that ads from independent expenditure groups and ballot measure committees disclose the names of their top three "identifiable contributors," a phrase intended to force the disclosure of the actual individuals or corporations that provided the funding.

This bill is sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, which argues that disclosure of political advertising is needed now more than ever, particularly in light of the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision, which the campaign claims "unleash the floodgates of anonymous spending on campaigns” by ruling there could be no limits on outside spending by corporations, unions, or individuals.  The author notes the use of unlimited contributions to candidates through independent expenditure committees and to ballot measure committees, many of which are purposely established to hide who is funding campaign messages.

A coalition of business interests, led by the California Chamber of Commerce, is opposed to the bill.  They argue that the bill is, among other things, unnecessary.  Current law already requires disclosure on campaign advertisements and slate mailers which serve the state’s interest in providing voters with information about a candidate’s or ballot measure’s supporters and opponents.  In addition, opponents argue the bill would violate the US and California Constitutions’’ guarantees to free speech.  Moreover, they contend AB 1148 does not serve an overriding state interest, but rather is intended to have a chilling effect on business and individuals willingness to participate in the election process.

AB 1148 was taken up on Tuesday morning and endured a lengthy debate.  The bill --which needed a two-thirds vote -- ultimately fell short two votes, 52-26.  A similar bill may be introduced in the coming month.

Another controversial bill that failed to pass legislative muster was SB 810 (Leno), the single payer bill.  This measure would replace private insurance companies with a newly created California Healthcare Agency.  The new state agency would manage the $200 billion supporters say is already spent on healthcare by employers, individuals and the state each year.  SB 810 has a long list of supporters, but a long list of opponents too.  SB 810 ultimately failed passage with a vote of 19-15.