California Democrats are looking to force through statewide coronavirus vaccine rules in a bill that was initially supposed to be about tolls on a bridge in the Bay Area, using a controversial “gut-and-amend” tactic that repurposes an existing bill.
The legislative screen allows state lawmakers to fast-track their agenda without going through committees and other early hurdles, according to state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a Republican and candidate to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in next month’s recall election.
“What it does is it takes a bill that’s already been through the whole [legislative] process and strips out its contents entirely – then puts in something entirely different,” he told Fox News Friday. “So it skips over, short-circuits, the entire legislative process and can just be passed without much scrutiny at all.”
The original bill, AB 455, was supposed to regulate traffic lanes on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. But a draft of an amended version published by the California Globe replaces the toll provisions with language that would allow private employers to fire employees if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
“It doesn’t make sense, but it’s just kind of the way the California Legislature is really a sham institution,” Kiley said. “Bills die without a vote, without a hearing.”
Some of his own have met that fate, he said, including legislation that would support school choice in the heavily Democratic state.
But AB 455, which received committee support for its original intended purpose, could be co-opted for something entirely different. It would still need to pass the full Assembly and in the Senate – and then be signed into law by the governor.
A spokesperson for its sponsor, Democratic state Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Jim Desmond, a county supervisor in San Diego, warned that the amended bill would “infringe upon the rights of all Californians.”
“Small businesses have already suffered greatly, and being forced to mandate these rules would be impossible for many,” he said. “Government should stay out of the way when it comes to telling business owners how to operate.”
And there’s evidence to back up his point. California has the most stringent business regulations in the country, according to Kiley, and for the first time in history lost a congressional seat due to population loss as residents and businesses flee for greener pastures.
“I’ve heard from a number of businesses already who are outraged by the idea that somehow the government is going to force you to demand this information,” he said. “’Show me your papers or else you can’t come into my cafe.’ It is a chilling concept.”