Dan Walters: Who won and who lost in California Legislature this year



The book closed on the 2013 legislative session when Gov. Jerry Brown signed or vetoed its last few bills.

Obviously, therefore, it’s time to tote up the winners and losers.

Two of the bigger winners were public employee labor unions and groups representing the state’s 3 million illegal immigrants.

The unions spend lavishly on legislative campaigns and have no natural enemies, at least not those with deep financial pockets.

While the business community often battles with private-sector unions, it has no stake in what the larger and more powerful public sector unions seek from the state’s politicians, so the latter operate freely.

The only brakes are Democratic politicians, including a governor, that they helped elect. And while they may not have gotten everything they sought, the public unions saw gains on several fronts, including higher pay, thus cashing in on the Democratic gains and new taxes in last year’s elections.

The deadlock on immigration reform in Congress gave Brown a rationale – or excuse – to sign bills aimed at semi-legalizing California’s illegal residents that he had opposed in the past.

“While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” Brown said while signing one batch of immigration bills. “I’m not waiting.”

Illegal immigrants gained the rights to obtain driver’s licenses and become licensed lawyers, along with bills barring discrimination against them, and forbidding police to cooperate with immigration authorities in the “Secure Communities” program.

Another winner was the business community – oddly, one might think, given the big Democratic legislative majorities and a slew of bills sponsored by unions, trial lawyers, consumer activists and environmental groups.

The California Chamber of Commerce branded the 38 highest-profile bills as “job-killers” and managed to kill or sidetrack all but one, which raises the state minimum wage to $10.

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