Skip to comments.California: Bay Area lawmakers look to push bills again (in Washington )
Posted on 11/30/2002 10:35:30 AM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach
Bay Area lawmakers look to push bills again
With Republicans in control
WASHINGTON -- They began the 107th Congress hoping to expand health care coverage, increase funding for renewable energy research and force federal agencies to buy fair-trade coffee.
Overshadowed by the threat of terrorism and crippled by membership in a powerless political party, few Bay Area lawmakers' legislative priorities passed in the previous session.
With Republicans holding an even tighter reign on power in the upcoming term that begins in January -- and all but one of Bay Area's representatives in Congress being Democrats and mostly liberal ones at that -- the chances that their bills will pass next year are equally slim.
Still, they plan on trying.
"The important value of introducing legislation is that you begin to educate your colleagues. ... It's the process, it's the debate, it's the educational process," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.
Sen. Barbara Boxer already has vowed to resubmit legislation tightening federal penalties for gun dealers who don't keep records of firearm sales. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she has plans to reintroduce a bill to phase in fuel economy standards for SUVs.
Rep. Pete Stark is one of the many Northern California lawmakers who saw the majority of his bills -- to expand
Medicare eligibility for disabled workers, to make sure all children have health insurance and to forgive school loans for students who become social workers, to name a few -- wind up in the legislative trash bin.
But he said he plans to reintroduce virtually all of the 22 bills he submitted during the previous session -- including a proposal for universal health care. That's a piece of legislation Stark has submitted several times, and which had been rejected by his fellow Democrats as well as Republicans.
Stark said he remains ever hopeful.
"There's always a chance," he said, adding that the pendulum of public opinion sometimes can coax surprises out of Congress. "Legislation is a funny thing. All of a sudden it's time, and when it's time, you better be ready with something."
Oakland's Lee said she also plans to try all of her ideas again, including legislation to establish a living wage, provide medical coverage for hormone replacement therapy and encourage debt cancellation for countries heavily affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
She also preached patience.
"You have to understand, this is a long struggle. You can't just introduce a bill and get it passed the next day, even if it's a Democrat-controlled Congress."
Rep. Richard Pombo of Tracy, the Bay Area's only Republican, also didn't have much luck with his bills in the 107th Congress. But Pombo said he's confident his ideas will fare better in the coming term.
The top item on his list to reintroduce, he said, is legislation reforming the Endangered Species Act to require that scientific studies be peer-reviewed before federal officials can designate a plant or animal as threatened.
The bill passed the House Resources Committee but ultimately was squashed.
"We were ready to go to the floor with it, but they told me there was no way in the world the Senate was going to hear anything," Pombo said. "Timing-wise, it just didn't make a lot of sense, so I pulled back on it."
Come January, though, "there's going to be a lot more pressure on the Senate to move legislation," Pombo said. "There's a lot of pressure on the Republicans to produce."
He also said he plans to reintroduce other bills, including one that prohibits the use of federal funds for any program that restricts the use of any privately owned water source and one that requires that landowners receive more and better information from the government when an endangered species is found on private property.
Pombo said he is wavering on a bill he introduced in May 2001 to repeal a gasoline tax increase that has been in place since 1986. The 4.3-cent increase was meant to deal with that era's federal deficit, and Pombo said he introduced the repeal when the government was flush with cash.
Now that the government is again running a deficit -- $159 billion in the 2002 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 -- Pombo said he would be willing to see the gasoline tax stay in place.
An aide to Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said she will try again with thus-far-failed legislation to require energy refunds to California, require firearms ballistics testing and require the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to set and enforce limits on pathogens in raw meat and poultry.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, plans to try again to persuade her colleagues to "trigger" President Bush's tax cuts -- that is, phase in the cuts only when there is money in the Treasury to fund them.
Her spokeswoman also said Tauscher plans to reintroduce legislation providing a $2.5 billion revolving loan fund for repairing public schools and libraries and a crib safety bill that Tauscher has pushed unsuccessfully since 1999.
The bill would require thrift stores and retail furniture stores to remove potentially dangerous decorative knobs on the corner posts of cribs before selling them.
As for some of the more controversial legislation on both sides of the aisle, Bay Area lawmakers said hope springs eternal.
Not that the 107th Congress was devoid of legislative accomplishments for Bay Area politicians.
Bush, in fact, put his pen to a number of bills that originated with California lawmakers such as Lee's legislation to collect data on benign brain tumors and a major overhaul of the way medical devices are regulated that Eshoo spearheaded.
Contact Lisa Friedman at href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ">email@example.com .
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, was a key player in crafting Bush's sweeping "leave no child behind" education bill, although Miller bitterly complained later that Bush severely under-funded the legislation and rendered it meaningless.
And Tauscher successfully steered into law a bill that restructures part of Russia's debt to the United States in return for Russia working on joint programs to safeguard its nuclear materials.
She also was one of the leading advocates and authors of legislation to create a Homeland Security Department long before Bush came on board to the idea.
As for some of the more controversial legislation on both sides of the aisle, Bay Area lawmakers said hope springs eternal. Re-introducing bills year after year, they insisted, is more than an exercise in futility.
"If you didn't introduce a bill, you wouldn't have it included in the debate," said Lee. "Introducing legislation is important to raise the level of awareness among colleagues. ... I think that's very important in a democracy."
Contact Lisa Friedman at href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ">email@example.com
Not in California!
Funny how the author would lead you to believe that these fanatics are impotent.
I love SF, it gives those of us in the red zone something to laugh at....