Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, September 1, 2006


Page 7



Selling Commercials On the California Channel




If you haven’t done so, you should take a few minutes and watch the California Channel.  It is the Legislature’s response to C-SPAN.  Every weekday between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., you can watch the proceedings of the Senate, the Assembly, and their respective committees, and find out what is really happening in your California state government.

Of course, it competes with game shows, soap operas, Oprah and Dr. Phil, so it doesn’t have the highest ratings in the world.  Not many people can sit through the droning, pontificating, blathering and pandering that go on in most legislative venues.

What’s a bunch of politicians to do?  Game shows are famous for their giveaways to people who answer silly, obscure questions.  People watch them to fantasize about how they could win those prizes themselves, and try to answer the questions as they are being asked. 

Oprah and Dr. Phil bring on people of some kind of interest, either lurid or sympathetic, and talk to them about their problem and how to solve it.  Soap operas get their ratings by talking about their characters’ lives over and over again.

All of these shows make lots of money selling commercials because of their “intrigue,” and the ratings that intrigue generates.  The poor California Channel just has droning politicians debating obscure points ad nauseum until even the reporters that are paid to watch these tedious proceedings are put to sleep by boredom.

Until this week.  Life got pretty exciting this week at the Legislature.  Two bills generated some real drama on the floor of the Assembly.

The first was AJR 51, a resolution to Congress by the Speaker of the Assembly, Fabian Nunez, calling on Congress to enact “intelligent, comprehensive and balanced” immigration reform.  In other words, to provide amnesty to those in this country illegally today.  The resolution goes on to say that the House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, “unfortunately” passed HR 4437, which “can only be characterized as mean-spirited, short-sighted, and anti-immigrant.” 

It called upon Congress to “stand up to the extremists’ voices” (that is, those voices that want to enforce our immigration laws, and call those who violate those laws criminals).  The resolution called upon Congress to reject any legislation that seeks to criminalize illegal entry into our country, and any other policy that seeks to “divide us.”

Republicans didn’t take to kindly to being called extremists, mean-spirited, and the like, and pointed out that Congress wouldn’t take to kindly to that sort of name-calling either.  The Speaker, in a fit of anger, called the Republicans who didn’t like those words “f——ing” nitpickers, and slammed the door of his office loud enough for it to be heard throughout the building.  So much for tolerance and unity.

Then the next day, on SB 1827, by Senator Carole Migden, a bill to allow domestic partners the opportunity to file their tax returns as if they were married, another brouhaha broke out.  The Assembly started discussing in detail their individual sex lives, and how much those sex lives affected their life, and claimed that any criticism of their bedroom behavior offended them.

They got so mad that the entire Democrat caucus stormed off the floor to have a private meeting about how mad they were that Republicans didn’t want to know or hear about their sexual practices.

This is real dramatic stuff.  I can only assume that we are engaging in this behavior because the state wants to make some money off of the California Channel by selling commercials, and the Legislators have to do something to attract an audience. 

Now all we need is a game show-“Name That Budget Line Item” or something like that.  Our ratings will really soar. The franchise rights alone could be worth millions.  I’m sure our public schools and public labor unions would really appreciate the extra money.


(The writer, an attorney, is a member of the Assembly, representing portions of Riverside and San Diego counties.)


Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company