Consumer Advocates Blame Two Democrats for Bill’s Failure

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Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Consumer advocates blamed two Democratic lawmakers Wednesday for the failure of a three-strikes bill banning corporations that commit three felonies in a 10-year period from doing business in the state.

The advocates placed a fake wanted poster of the two lawmakers on a Web page, accusing them of being soft on corporate crime.

“Any politician who believes that convicted corporate felons should not have the same responsibility to society as other three-time felons is out of touch with the public’s anger over the lack of corporate accountability,” said Jamie Court, executive director of Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a Santa Monica-based consumer group that supported the bill.

Court’s ire was sparked by the failure of Sens. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey, and Jackie Speier, D-Daly City, to vote for a bill by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, that was defeated in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The legislation would bar corporations with three felonies of fraud, tax, bribery, extortion, consumer protection, civil rights, labor, employment, antitrust, political campaign or finance laws within 10 years from doing business in California.

The first two crimes could take place anywhere in the country. The third would have to be in California to trigger the ban.

A first or second offense would have to be disclosed on the Internet and in newspaper ads.

Speier said she liked parts of the bill but considered other sections “overly broad.” She said she was willing to work with the measure’s supporters to reach a compromise.

She also said it wasn’t too late in the Legislature’s session to get a three-strikes-type ban enacted this year.

Bowen said she didn’t see how the bill could guarantee that no jobs would be lost if a corporation was barred from doing business in the state, unless the company was replaced with a state-run enterprise.

“It’s a great bumper sticker but it doesn’t work very well as a law,” she said.

The bill takes its name from the state’s three strikes law, which mandates sentences of 25 years to life in prison for individuals convicted of a third felony with two prior violent felonies.

Supporters described it as the toughest corporate crime measure proposed in the nation and said it would be a major deterrent to corporate malfeasance. But critics said it was among legislation that would make California appear inhospitable to business.

The bill failed last week on a 6-6 vote in the Appropriations Committee with Bowen and the committee’s five Republicans voting no and Speier abstaining. On Wednesday, the vote was 5-6 with Bowen again opposing the bill and Speier and Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, not voting. Machado and five other Democrats voted for the bill last week.

Friday is the deadline for the Senate to send the Assembly its bills this year, but Speier said the Romero proposal could be kept alive by being amended into another bill that reaches the Assembly.
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