Wednesday, May 11, 2011

‘Son of Tesco Fresh & Easy Law' - California Assembly Appropriations Committee Passes Self-Checkout Ban Bill AB 183 By 12-4 Margin

Self service/assissted checkout at Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market


The California State Assembly Appropriations Committee today voted in favor of AB 183 - passing it out of committee - which if eventually passed this year by the full assembly and California State Senate and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, will ban the sale of alcoholic beverages at self-service checkout stands in grocery and other retail stores, something that's currently legal in the Golden State.

We’ve nicknamed the legislation the "Son of Tesco Fresh & Easy (Neighborhood Market) Law" because if passed it would force the El Segundo, California grocery chain, which offers self-service checkout only in its 175 stores in California, Nevada and Arizona, to most-likely at a minimum add at least one full-service checkout stand in its 126 stores in the California.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market calls its self-service checkout system "assisted checkout" because store employees are required (and gladly do so in our experience) to assist customers who ask for help checking out their groceries.

In 2008, when legislation to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages was first introduced in the California State Assembly, we nicknamed that bill, AB 523, the "Tesco Fresh & Easy Law," using the term in Fresh & Easy Buzz throughout 2009 and 2010, when the same Assemblyman, Democrat Hector De La Torre (D-Southgate, Southern California) authored a second bill in 2010, after AB 523 failed to pass in 2008. That bill, AB 1060, passed both houses of the California State Legislature but was vetoed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

AB 183 passed in the California State Assembly Appropriations Committee today by a big majority.

Twelve members of the committee voted yes in favor of passing the bill out of committee and four members voted against doing so - a no vote. One member was absent for the vote today. [You can view the results of the committee’s vote here.]

The bill was originally scheduled for a hearing in the California State Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 4. However, the hearing was postponed at the request of the bill’s author – Assemblywomen Fiona Ma, a democrat who represents the western portion of San Francisco and parts of next door San Mateo County.

The hearing for AB 183 was rescheduled for today, and the committee voted in favor of the bill following the hearing.

Passage in appropriations by such a big margin is a major milestone for AB 183 (and any bill) because the committee is arguably the most powerful in the California State Assembly. It's also the key committee in terms of a bill's ability to make it to the assembly floor for a vote by the full body. Legislative bills die regularly in the appropriations committee in two ways - swiftly and without little fanfare and slowly by purposeful inattention and neglect.

AB 183 will make it to the full assembly for a vote soon, and in our analysis will pass by an easy majority, as nearly identical AB 1060 did in 2010.

Once the bill passes in the California State Assembly, if our analysis is correct, it will be sent to the California State Senate for hearings in various committees. If it's passed out of those committees, like AB 1060 was last year, it then will be voted on by the full senate.

AB 1060 passed both houses of the state legislature last year, as mentioned earlier, but was vetoed by the then Governor.

The composition of both the assembly and senate hasn't changed since 2010. In fact the Democrats, who support Ab 183 nearly unanimous, actually have a slightly larger majority in both houses this year than they did in 2010.

This fact, combined with the historic precedent of nearly identical AB 1060 passing last year suggests the odds are in favor of AB 183 passing both the California State Assembly and California State Senate this year.

Assemblywomen Fiona Ma, author of AB 183 and the Speaker Pro Tempore of the California State Assembly (number two leadership position), is fairly confident that will happen, as are other supporters of the legislation.

The wild card - and it really isn't unpredictably wild - then would be if Democrat Jerry Brown, who's on his second rodeo in Sacramento as Governor, having served two terms in the 1980's, would sign it.

Based on discussions we've had with numerous players in Sacramento, right now we would say there's a 75% chance the Governor will sign AB 183 if its passed this year by both the state assembly and senate.

But remember this - in Sacramento a bill doesn't become a law until after all the lobbyists on both sides of legislation, including the "fat ladies and gentlemen," have not only done plenty of singing but have also spent millions of dollars in an attempt to sway votes in their desired directions.

And that singing - and money spending - is just getting started on both sides. So there's more story to come. You can follow it here, with us. Stay tuned.

Related Stories

We've been covering, writing about and offering analysis on legislation in California designed to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages at self-service checkout stands since 2008, when the first bill - see the July 14, 2008 story linked below - was proposed in the California State Assembly, up to today.

You can read our work on the topic and issue - and follow the continuing story - at the links below:

May 6, 2011: 'Son of Tesco Fresh & Easy Law': California State Assembly Appropriations Committee Hearing For AB 183 Cancelled

May 4, 2011: 'Son of Tesco Fresh & Easy Law': Strong Chance California Legislation to Prohibit Alcohol Sales at Self-Service Checkouts Could Pass This Year

September 30, 2010: Self-Service-Only Checkout Safe at California Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Stores Thanks to Governor's Veto Pen

September 30, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Hopes Governor Schwarzenegger Can Find His Veto Pen Before Midnight Tonight

September 28, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Hoping Governor Schwarzenegger Prefers His Veto Pen When it Comes to AB 1060

September 25, 2010: Future of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's Self-Service-Only Checkout in California Up to Governor Schwarzenegger

August 24, 2010: California State Senate Sends Bill to Governor That Could End Self-Service-Only Checkout at Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market

August 15, 2010 : Bill to Ban Alcoholic Beverage Sales at Self-Service Checkouts Would End
'Self-Service Only' at California Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Stores

July 14, 2008: Breaking News & Analysis: CA Assemblyman Introduces 'Tesco Fresh & Easy Law' to Ban Stores With Self-Checkout-Only From Selling Alcoholic Beverages.

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