California Legislative Update — March 2013

Understanding legislation through young, inexperienced eyes
by Ron Prentice
You know you’re getting old when more and more of the words coming from your mouth remind you of your parents. I try to catch myself from blurting out the phrases and opinions, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Please don’t misunderstand, Mom and Dad, you are witty and wise and all that, but I’d like to think that I’m more than just a product of my environment. 

Recently at a community forum, high school students joined the discussion with “adults” who averaged 50 years of age, and those young whippersnappers gave important insight to the fogeys.

Especially significant was the statement from one young man, saying, “We don’t care about legislation. We are more interested in the things that touch us emotionally.” 

Hearing this, my mom entered my head, saying, “Oh, my goodness gracious.” My dad said some things there, too, but they can’t be repeated.  Then, my own thoughts took over: “Whaddaya mean, you don’t care about legislation?”  “Things that ‘touch’ you?”  “Emotionally?”  “These kids need my dad to whip them into shape.”

But I digress.

To this group of students, legislation is lifeless and, therefore, without worth. What the students don’t understand or believe is that every legislative bill is a small piece of a much larger agenda, an agenda that promotes someone’s worldview of reality, morality and theology. It isn’t that legislation—once understood—can’t “touch” a person under 35 “emotionally.”  However, much work must go into getting a policy’s meaning articulated and broadcast, so that people of all ages will be touched by its potential for good, or for bad.    

Each year, California Senate and Assembly members submit more than 1,500 legislative bills for consideration, the majority of which come in the final week of the session. For example, at the time of this writing, 620 bills and 19 constitutional amendments have been submitted with only a week remaining before the deadline.

Of the bills submitted thus far, here is a smattering: several relating to public employees’ retirement, reforming political campaigns and the initiative processes, and to financing post-secondary education. Other bills concern water quality, teacher accountability and the state’s budget.

However the youngest of voters may respond to the aforementioned bills now, it is very likely their responses will change as they age. Public employee retirement packages are bankrupting cities, resulting in reduced services but not reduced taxes, and public employee union money controls political campaigns, often resulting in an elected representative’s deaf ear to his or her electorate. Budget woes are answered by increased taxes, and the things that formerly didn’t “touch” the teen voter are now, 10 years later, touching those same people—young parents with mortgages, children in school, unstable employment, school loans and rising taxes—with all kinds of emotions

Of course, lacking foresight is not a criminal offense, though it sometimes leads to them. In the case of legislation, not seeing the strategy of a “small” bill may result in the construction of a series of bills that ultimately negate parental rights in public schools, religious freedom in employment or the protection of human life in the womb.  

For example, Assembly Bill (AB) 154 seeks to expand the number of medical personnel who may perform surgical abortions. Nearly identical to an unsuccessful bill last year, AB 154 would allow nurse midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to receive additional training in order to be certified to do abortions. Aside from the obvious damage done to more preborn babies by the passage of this bill, it would also place women undergoing abortions at significantly increased risk due to the lack of comprehensive medical and surgical training of nurses, etc.

If younger citizens would take the time to consider the consequences of AB 154, they would be touched emotionally. First, this population is the strongest defender of the preborn, and AB 154 would allow for the taking of more of those innocent lives. Younger citizens will also cringe at the medical emergencies, even increased deaths of women, which will occur due to the lowering of medical training. AB 154 does not provide compassion to the preborn, or justice to the women who are often in fragile, confused conditions with unplanned pregnancies.  Rather, at its root is the advancement of so-called “choice,” never mind the facts.

The work of the church is to impress upon the next generation of leaders the need for discernment of truth and to help them recognize and respond to those whose worldviews do serious damage to life, family and freedom.

Stay tuned next month for a complete run-down of the legislative bills under close observation.

Prentice is chief executive officer of California Family Council.

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