“In an unusual last-minute power grab, Attorney General Xavier Becerra is trying to ram something called Assembly Bill 6 through the California State Legislature,” the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board reported Monday. “It’s a perfect example of bad, secretive and cynical government.”
“Legislators should do the right thing by just saying no to AB 6.”
AB 6, which was sent to the inactive file in 2019 because it could not pass the legislative committee process, was dusted off and brought back August 25th. It is a very odd bill which would dramatically increase the Attorney General’s power and influence over a “Statewide Opioid Settlement Agreement,” which would prevent local governments from suing companies involved in the nation’s opioid crisis.
AB 6 “empowers the Attorney General with the ability to release any claims that may be brought by the State and other government entities in California, including cities and counties, related to the marketing, distribution, or sale of opioids, or related activity.”
AB 6 also allows the AG “to prosecute any violations of law when, in the opinion of the AG, any law of the State is not being adequately enforced in any county.”
AB 6 would also expand the attorney general’s powers involving the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
AB 6 would also allow the AG to expand his staff, adding up to 16 additional “exempt” positions.
AG Becerra says he doesn’t have the resources to investigate police shootings, but he’s trying to increase his political staff appointments while also blocking local governments from suing opioid makers and expanding his authority in fish and wildlife matters?
One critic of the bill contacted the California Globe with analysis and comments, but asked to remain anonymous:
“This really does look like an unprecedented and unexplained power grab and more questions should be asked, and answered, before more powers are given.”
“If Becerra believes his office is so egregiously understaffed, that should prompt scrutiny of a lot of the recent litigation he’s launched. Understaffed legal operations tend to make bad decisions and put undue weight on shaky points of evidence, which can lead to cases that don’t stand up under scrutiny and therefore fail to serve the public interest.”
“Almost certainly if Becerra’s office is understaffed, he’s been cutting corners on important cases and with regard to important evidence, and legislators should ask questions about that.”
“In addition, are there cases Becerra should have been pursuing but which he is not?”
“This bill is a tacit admission by Attorney General Becerra that his office may not have had the resources to do its job properly. This could explain why he was so far behind the 8-ball, relative to other AGs, in going after Google for antitrust violations despite there being far more evidence of antitrust problems where Google is concerned than Sutter Health, which Becerra sued regarding antitrust using a single flimsy study done by the Petris Center, which has massive connections to Sutter’s chief opponents in fights over pricing and network size, namely the insurance companies.”
“Relying on that study, given conflicts of interest and other flaws inherent in it, looked like cutting corners at the time, and slow-walking action against Google looked like an inability of the AG’s office to get it together. Maybe we now know why both things happened: The AG’s office is understaffed and underfunded, so it’s been misplacing priorities and relying on ropey ‘evidence’ to make cases that suggest the AG is getting meaningful work done even when that is very much in doubt.”
AB 6 passed Senate Appropriations August 30th, after having been referred to Senate Budget and Fiscal Review August 28th. It appears Becerra’s “sneaky and convoluted power grab,” did not pass again.