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How state Assembly members change, add their votes on certain bills

By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro voted to ban California hunters from using dogs to track bears or bobcats before the Arcata Democrat reversed himself and voted to allow the controversial practice.

Assemblyman Michael Allen voted to support a bill that would have potentially raised the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases. The Santa Rosa Democrat later changed his position so that the official record now shows that he did not vote on the bill.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, did not change any of his votes this year. But he added his vote 144 times after the outcome of the legislation was decided.

The three North Coast lawmakers were included in an Associated Press analysis that revealed that state Assembly members made 5,000 vote changes or additions during this year’s legislative session.

The practice, while legal, is decried by critics as a way for lawmakers to play politics with their votes or hide their true positions on the issues.

“Your initial vote is really your heart. Then you get lobbied by people, and being allowed to go back and change your vote is duplicitous,” said Barbara O’Connor, emeritus professor of communications and director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at CSU Sacramento.

“It leads to non-profiles in courage,” she added.

All lawmakers in California’s 80-member Assembly are allowed to change or add votes an unlimited number of times after the fate of a bill has been decided, as long as it does not change whether a bill passes or fails. The state Senate allows such changes only by the Democratic and Republican leaders in that house.

O’Connor said the practice is a “courtesy to members, and it shouldn’t be.”

In addition to his vote change on hunting with hounds, Chesbro also reversed his position on bills that would have given the media greater access to California prisoners and another that provides $200 million in tax credits over two years for motion pictures and TV programs produced in California.

Chesbro voted “no” on the bills after he initially voted “yes.”

Chesbro added his “yes” votes after-the-fact to two of the most contentious bills this year — AB1761, which is related to California’s health care change as part of the federal health care overhaul, and AB1707, which will allow certain people who had been designated as child abusers when they were minors to have their names removed from a state registry.

He also supported, after-the-fact, a bill that was supported by teachers unions and would have prevented schools from including students’ test scores on their ID cards.

Chesbro, who is seeking re-election, did not respond to messages Wednesday seeking comment.

Allen’s press aide, David Miller, said the assemblyman was unavailable for comment Wednesday because Allen was “at meetings, events and other things of that nature all day.”

Allen has not made himself available to The Press Democrat for more than a month. He is seeking re-election in a newly-drawn assembly district that includes all of Marin County, part of Santa Rosa and portions of western and southern Sonoma County.

Allen changed course on legislation that allows the state to garnish local tax revenue if it believes governments are keeping too much money formerly dedicated to redevelopment.

Allen initially voted against the bill before changing his vote to support it. That places him at odds with the League of California Cities, which is suing the state over the legislation.

“The shifting of sales tax and property tax away from cities and giving them to other taxing entities within the county, we believe that to be unconstitutional,” said Patrick Whitnell, the league’s general counsel.

Allen also voted for and then against legislation that allows state and regional water control board members to communicate directly with stakeholders over such matters as the issuing of stormwater permits. Advocates say the legislation will bring more transparency to the permit process.

Huffman, who is running for Congress, said he agrees with people who criticize legislators for changing their votes or for meeting with lobbyists during floor sessions, a practice that he said “frankly should be illegal.”

“There are members who delay their votes purposefully so they can wait to talk to lobbyists and then decide how to vote. It’s unfortunate, but I have several colleagues who do that,” he said.

Huffman said his 144 add-on votes, which were more than twice the average rate among lawmakers, were not about politics or trying to conceal his record, but the result of his busy schedule.

“It was because I was working my bills on the Senate floor, or chairing a committee, or doing other legislative business. I was not playing politics,” he said.

Huffman added votes 83 times in April and May, more than half his total for the year.

David McCuan, a political scientist at Sonoma State University, speculated that was because Huffman was busy campaigning ahead of the June 5 primary, which Huffman won.

“I think it’s unfair to categorize him as changing his vote,” McCuan said. “Technically that’s correct, but he’s going on the record for votes he missed.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.)





13 Responses to “How state Assembly members change, add their votes on certain bills”

  1. GAJ says:

    I agree, Allen has done an excellent job in helping create the pension mess we will hand down to the next generations.

  2. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    The PD has done nothing but bash Allen going back to when he was general manager of SEIU. All he’s done is stand up for workers rights most of his working career. He’s doing an excellent job in the legislature and it’s all for his district’s (actually they whole state too)families and workers. I can’t think of any other legislator that has California’s families and small businesses in mind whenever they votes.

    Now the PD wants access? To do what? More bashing?

  3. Not A Chance says:

    @Hooper

    Its actually the same exact thing but worse, with less ability to scrutinize.

    can you imagine if you were allowed to pick the horses after the race? we’d all be millionaires.

    One could argue that Allen mistakenly voted the wrong way and changed it to actually reflect his thinking by fixing a clerical error of his own (not saying that happened but it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility) . While Huffman gets to pick all the winners without any consequence, just imagine how many of those bills were labeled unpopular before he cast his vote for them. Seeing public fallout before you cast a vote is handicapping your voting record. Funny how Huffman cast ZERO votes on controversial legislation…

  4. Jim says:

    To follow-up my previous post, you’d think that with all the stories that come out about corruption, deceit, waste of taxpayer money, raises for unnecessary government workers, absurd retirement payments, etc (imagine what goes on that we never hear about), that no one would bother voting for any of these clowns. Yet, I see people campaigning for the scum all the time. People trespass on my property to try to convince me to vote for one criminal over another criminal. These same drones litter my property with campaign flyers.

    The elections only matter to those who have the money to bribe the candidates once they are in office. The system is a complete joke.

  5. Vinyl Rules says:

    “Allen has not made himself available to The Press Democrat for more than a month.” Oh boo hoo! I thought for a second I saw Derek Moore’s teardrops on the page. So somehow Huffman missing votes(voting being the most basic function of his job as a legislator) due to campaigning is ok, but Allen not talking to a muckraker due to his schedule is not ok? Good ole PD bias!

  6. Not A Chance says:

    “Allen has not made himself available to The Press Democrat for more than a month”

    “I WANT A GOLDEN GOOSE, DADDY, AND I WANT IT NOW!!!!” -Deadline Derek

    WWWWWWHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAA!

    Do you think, maybe, that if you didn’t completely distort EVERYTHING he did in his last election and during his tenure as a member he’d be more willing to speak with this publication? You guys make your money on attempting to ruin careers of non-moderate candidates, I can’t say I blame him for not wanting you to distort his words.

    I mean look at the story, Huffman did it 140 times Allen 3 and you’re acting as if Allen is ruining the Assembly and Huffman is the second coming of Christ, double standard at its finest.

  7. Curioser and Curioser says:

    “David McCuan, a political scientist at Sonoma State University, speculated that was because Huffman was busy campaigning ahead of the June 5 primary, which Huffman won.

    “I think it’s unfair to categorize him as changing his vote,” McCuan said. “Technically that’s correct, but he’s going on the record for votes he missed.”’

    Essentially he couldn’t vote because he was campaining for a job in which he is expected to vote as a part of that job, and missed 83 votes in a 2 month period? And even though it’s “technically” correct that he chaged his votes, it’s unfair that we expect him to do a job that we elected him to? He must have followed Alice down the rabbit hole, as he is certainly living in Wonderland!

  8. Jim says:

    What?!?! The Legislature is full of liars and thieves?!?! I had NO idea.

    This isn’t news. The elected representatives are all liars. They do what they need to do to stay in office. Just look at the people the voters repeatedly put in office and the blame falls on them.

    I repeat the claim I’ve made multiple times on this and other boards…the US political system is the most corrupt in the world. Period. Yet people get all up in arms about Obama vs Romney, who is running for the Senate and who is representing them at the state level. Who freaking cares. They all lie. They ALL get paid to push legislation that benefits the person who bribes them best.

    The sad thing is that the most people, most voters, actually believe that it matters who they vote for.

  9. Talking About It Doesn't Help says:

    California style law making in Sacramento done wrong as always. These politicians do not represent anyone except themselves and their special interests like labor unions who put them in power and pay to keep them there.

    The people of California don’t count and haven’t mattered in Sacramento for years.

    This is shame democracy most often found in third world countries. We need a redo in Sacramento.

  10. Hooper says:

    Wrong on the Allen/Huffman comparison, Juan. Huffman had zero vote changes if you read the article. All of his 144 were votes cast late, but not changed. I’m less troubled by a late vote than an altered vote.

  11. Juan Lock says:

    Allen changed 3 votes, Huffman changed his 144 times. So, Deadline Derek, why are Allen’s changes highlighted so much more than Huffman’s?

    Quite an interesting editorial choice…

  12. Wilson says:

    “Huffman said his 144 add-on votes, which were more than twice the average rate among lawmakers, were not about politics or trying to conceal his record, but the result of his busy schedule.”

    So in other words, Mr. Huffman had better things to do than what he was elected to do. What a tool. He’ll never get my vote.

  13. Grapevines says:

    How does one spell “LYING WEASELS?”

    A-l-l-e-n, or C-h-e-s-b-r-o, even H-u-f-f-m-a-n seems to be acceptable. And even though she was not mentioned, I’m more than sure that E-v-a-n-s should be included also.

    All of these are perfectly acceptable “alternate” spellings. Now lets change all the school books to reflect that. Oh wait, according to Moonbeam the 2nd, we gotta give them more money in order to do anything.

    Lets include B-r-o-w-n to the top of that list. Lying weasels all.