Civics 101 teaches us that the principal job of a legislature is to make laws. That's straightforward enough. But the real question is, for whom?
Nowhere is this question filled with more convoluted answers than in Sacramento.
With so many powerful interest groups buzzing around, legislators are hard-pressed on how to act, especially when the needs of groups collide or, worse yet, when the demands of special interests oppose what some might call the public good.
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That's precisely the case right now with AB 783 by Assemblymember Mary Hayashi, which would allow physicians to employ physical therapists in their offices.
Physicians who support the bill say it promotes continuity of treatment.
Independent therapists and their allies counter that the law could enable some physicians to prescribe unnecessary or sub-par treatment within the cozy confines of their own offices, thereby discouraging independent assessments of the physical therapist.
Hayashi's bill is not the only health-related legislation in Sacramento jeopardizing the public interest.
Assemblymember Toni Atkins' AB 788 would eliminate the separation between eye doctors and optical companies.
Under current law, companies that make and sell eyeglasses cannot operate at the same location of those professionals who conduct eye examinations.
If the physician owns the eyeglass dispensing business, he or she might be tempted to write unnecessary prescriptions.
But proponents of AB 778 counter that they are just trying to make it easier for the public to be served.
One wonders how much these proposed laws would benefit the public versus the interests of those promoting the legislation.
It's enough to scare the pants off of those of us far-removed from the process who trust legislators to act in OUR interest.
The good news is that while these groups are plying legislators with campaign donations and other forms of assistance, they are by no means assured of having their way.
What, you ask? Legislators are acting in the public good?
Not really. The fact is that many petitioning groups are opposed by others as influential as they are.
With pressure forming on both sides of an issue, more times than not legislators find themselves unable to move and therefore do nothing.
Come to think of it, considering the stakes in these instances, gridlock may not be so bad after all.