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Rare Defeats For Brown As California Legislature Wraps Up

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

The California state Assembly adjourns for its interim recess early Saturday morning.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

This year’s California legislative session ended with a whimper rather than a bang – particularly for Gov. Jerry Brown, who failed to win passage of several of his top priorities.

By the time the California Legislature wrapped up for the year early Saturday morning, it had handed Jerry Brown a string of defeats.

Moderate Assembly Democrats blocked much of his climate change agenda after millions of dollars in negative oil industry advertising. And Brown couldn’t win support from enough Republicans – or even enough moderate Democrats – for new taxes and fees to fund transportation and health care.

“I would suspect that not everything I want, I’m gonna get,“ a philosophical Brown told reporters Monday. “That’s never been my experience as governor or as attorney general or in life. And I don’t think it’s your experience.”

But since June 2011, when he failed to convince Republicans to place a tax extension measure on the ballot, Brown has gotten just about everything he’s wanted: Major changes to California’s criminal justice and education systems, budgets that didn’t spend as much as legislative Democrats wanted, and voter-approved sales and income tax increases.

“The party did not march in lockstep behind Gov. Brown this time” – particularly on climate change, says USC political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, who adds the governor could have campaigned more publicly for his agenda – but didn’t.

“When one side – the oil industry side – gets to shape the message and there’s no blowback by the other side, the Legislature is going to listen to the side that they can hear,” she says.

Bebitch Jeffe says California’s new term limit rules could be having an effect too: Many new Assembly members know they can keep their seats for 12 years and are trying to reclaim some of the Legislature’s power from the executive branch.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio