SACRAMENTO – The battle in the state Assembly over AB 1208 may be over, but Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye isn’t walking away without a few parting shots.
In a speech to court executives and presiding judges last week, the chief justice accused Assembly members of parroting “meritless, false claims” about the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts during the AB 1208 floor debate on Jan. 30.
Cantil-Sakauye also accused Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, of reneging on pre-vote assurances that members would be allowed “to vote their conscience, that it wouldn’t be the subject of political maneuvering.” The chief justice said she was disturbed to learn that, after only 32 Assembly members voted “aye” on the first roll call, Perez worked the floor to help bill author Charles Calderon find another nine votes to secure AB 1208’s passage.
“It’s one thing to lose an argument based on merit. It’s another thing when the facts are not represented,” Cantil-Sakauye said. The bill, she added, isn’t headed to the Senate “on its own legs.”
In response, Perez spokesman John Vigna would only say “The Chief Justice certainly has an opportunity to present her case to the Senate.”
Maybe the chief justice’s remarks were simply aimed at rallying her troops for the possible fight ahead in the Senate. And only she and the speaker really know what was promised or not promised in terms of pressure on Assembly members.
But on its face, the indignation comes across as a bit naïve, especially when you consider Cantil-Sakauye worked for two years in the Deukmejian administration. Anyone who watched the AB 1208 debate in the Assembly Judiciary Committee last May could see the speaker was behind this bill from the start – and that he was willing to use his political clout to move it. And as for the speaker working votes after the first roll call on AB 1208, that’s the sausage-making process that goes on in the Capitol. Love it or hate it, it happens all the time, particularly on bills that are a tough vote for lawmakers.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has said he has no immediate plans to send AB 1208 to a committee hearing. In her speech, Cantil-Sakauye said she is grateful for the time-out and the time it gives the branch to focus on the budget. The judiciary, she said, is seeking another $100 million from the state’s general fund, $50 million in “redirections” from within the branch budget, $100 million from trial courts’ reserves “for [their] own needs” plus the $50 million in new fees included in the governor’s spending proposal.
That’s a big wish list from a branch whose leader just poked the Assembly and its leader with a sharp verbal stick.