April 4, 2003

Commentary

A Bad Idea That Just Won’t Die

By Assemblywoman Patricia Bates

Sometimes bad ideas just won’t die. During the last session of the California Legislature, time ran out on legislation that would have mandated all private businesses who contract with the State to provide domestic partner benefits to all of their employees.

Perhaps this initial attempt at social engineering might be excused if it had simply died, never to be revived again. Certainly, those advocating last year’s measure were aware that an impressive coalition of small business owners, religious organizations, educational institutions, and average citizens had mobilized against their plan. Even if they were unfazed by the many arguments in opposition to their bill, they certainly should have understood that now is not the time to place such a tremendous cost on California businesses already struggling under the burden of a weak economy and job-killer laws enacted by the liberals who dominate our Legislature.

Yet with almost shocking disregard for the times and for the consciences of Californian citizens, last year’s bill, AB 1080, has been resurrected this year as AB 17. Like its predecessor, AB 17 would prohibit the state from contracting with small businesses, colleges, hospitals, day care centers, social service agencies, and other entities unless they provide the same benefits to an employee with a registered domestic partner as an employee with a spouse.

AB 17’s proponents have yet to agree to an amendment exempting religious organizations or conscientious objectors. And they certainly have not agreed to add any provisions that would provide relief to small businesses who are forced to offer these new benefits. In tight budget years, it’s all too common for liberal legislators to propose bills that force private citizens and businesses to pick up the cost of advancing their social agenda. Their proposals take little regard for the burden they will place on hard-working business-owners and entrepreneurs, and ultimately, average citizens as well.

Nor should we assume that AB 17 will be cost-free for government. For those entities who have a choice whether to contract with the state, some may choose not to, resulting in a shrinking (i.e. more expensive) pool of vendors from which the state may choose to do business. Others may raise their rates, thereby passing the cost of increased benefits to taxpayers – the same group of folks that liberal legislators are hoping to tap to balance our bloated state deficit. Furthermore, if any of the private, religious facilities that are legally obligated to serve the neediest citizens of our state choose to close their doors rather than violate their consciences, scarcity of providers will cause the cost of the services they provide to increase all the more rapidly – for the state and for consumers.

As the first hearing on this legislation will be in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, of which I am a member, I will be among the first to vote against it. Unfortunately, my vote alone will not stop this costly bill; given the current composition of our Legislature and its leadership, its proponents could garner the votes needed to get the bill to the Governor. We must not let this happen. Freedom-loving Californians everywhere who detest command-and-control liberalism must rise up in opposition to AB 17 and let their voices be heard in Sacramento.

Ms Bates represents the 73rd Assembly District - Oceanside, Laguna Niguel, San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan Capis-trano, Laguna Hills, and Aliso Viejo.

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