California Advances Gun Control, Two States Still Without Budgets
By Stateline Staff
While lawmakers in Wisconsin and Massachusetts remain stalemated over the state budget, the California Legislature, in its second week back in session, has turned its attention to gun control -- again. Earlier this summer, the legislature completed work on two gun control measures, which Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, has already signed.
In Wisconsin, aides to Republican Governor Tommy Thompson interceded this week in the deadlocked budget battle. Thompson's chief of staff, Bob Wood and Adminstrative Secretary Mark Bugher are trying to bring Assembly and Senate leaders back to the table.
As has been the case in Massachusetts, discussions are continuing in secret.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that these latest developments are the most serious effort to move budget negotiations forward in more than a month.
Budget talks in Wisconsin broke down July 15, when Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen led fellow Republicans out of a conference committee meeting. Jensen has refused to discuss spending measures until Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, a Democrat, agrees to specific tax cuts.
"We're ready to go back to the table with no preconditions," Chvala said. Assembly Republicans, however, say their position has not changed.
Kevin Keane, Thompson's spokesperson, says the governor agrees with Jensen. "People in Wisconsin want tax cuts and you should determine the size of the cuts before you determine what you are going to spend," he said.
Bugher says he is aiming for a resolution by Labor Day.
Massachusetts' spending plan was due on the governor's desk on July 1. Now 57 days late, school officials are starting to get nervous. They have teaching positions to fill.
Superintendent Patricia Ruane of the Lexington school district told the Boston Globe she fears candidates will take jobs elsewhere before she knows if she has money to hire them
In Massachusetts, Democrats control both houses, yet are divided by philosophical differences. House Democrats want an across-the-board income tax cut. Senate Democrats wants tax cuts weighted in favor of the elderly and other specific groups.
In California this week, lawmakers advanced two gun-control bills. On Monday, the Assembly voted 52-16 for a proposal that would require dealers to install safety locks on guns. The bill had already passed the Senate.
Also on Monday, the California Senate passed a bill that would make it illegal to sell the cheap handguns known as Saturday Night Specials. It calls for handguns that are made in, sold in or imported into the state to meet certain consumer safety standards in order to ensure that they don't misfire. Davis signed both bills on Friday.
California thus becomes the second state in the nation, after Massachusetts, to impose consumer safety measures on gun manufacturers. A similar bill was vetoed last year by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.
Davis has already signed two other gun-control bills, an assault weapons ban that outlaws ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds and a limit on handgun purchases that restricts buyers to one a month.
Rone Tempest, the Sacramento Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times, reports that the political price of supporting gun control legislation has greatly diminished in this decade. State lawmakers do not fear the political assault of the gun lobby that drove many politicians out of office in the 1980s.
Stephen Helsley, the NRA's lobbyist in California says the session's gun-control measures are not sweeping enough to arouse the ire of gun owners. "The real test will come when someone offers a bill that makes it clear that this affects everyone. There are more guns in this state than cars. That will be the true crossing of the Rubicon," he told the Times.