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L.A. law

The political influence exerted in Sacramento by Angelenos and their neighbors is potent and pervasive.

January 05, 2007

SACRAMENTO IS a suburb of Los Angeles. Nothing drives home that point more than a walk through Terminal A at Burbank's Bob Hope Airport at the start of the workweek, where you can see a host of L.A. lawmakers -- and lobbyists, political lawyers, labor leaders and corporate executives -- waiting for their short hops to the Capitol.

They were there Wednesday, the newbies catching the early morning flight, the veterans taking their regular 10:45. An hour and a half later, conversations that had begun at City Hall, the Pacific Dining Car or a Brentwood living room continued seamlessly in the Capitol or a handful of watering holes within walking distance.

California's capital city may be where all the state's movers and shakers mingle, but L.A. still rules. When the Assembly speaker, Angeleno Fabian Nunez, recently called for members of his legislative house from Los Angeles County to rise, nearly half the chamber stood. The L.A. influence is even more pronounced this week with the Hollywood-tinged, star-studded inauguration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The State of the State and healthcare policy speeches the governor will deliver next week are being hammered out in Los Angeles, Sacramento and on flights in between.

It wasn't always this way. Sacramento was once a suburb of the Bay Area, with an Assembly ruled by San Franciscan Willie Brown and pols taking their unfinished business to North Beach bistros or Napa wineries. Elected officials from Los Angeles felt like out-of-towners.

But that's ancient history. During the workweek -- which for elected officials in Sacramento generally runs from Monday to Thursday afternoon -- L.A.-based lawmakers and their staffs, and L.A.-based supplicants, crowd the Capitol hallways and nearby barstools.

The Southern California influence was understated Thursday, when private pre-inaugural events staged for Schwarzenegger had to make do without their guest of honor, still recuperating from a broken leg. The sole public event was more old-time Sacramento, a green-themed event with free carrots, tips for solarizing your home and a person dressed up as an asparagus spear.

But Los Angeles will loom large at the Capitol, and it's not just the number of Angelenos who will be crowding the platform today to catch a view of their movie-star governor taking the oath. The themes that Schwarzenegger is highlighting in his second term, including healthcare, loom largest in L.A. With nearly half the state's uninsured population, policies proposed by the governor and mulled by the Legislature will have a profound effect 350 miles to the south. A fact lawmakers should remember every Thursday afternoon when they touch down in Burbank.

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