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Construction Defects & Let’s Make a Deal

When Assembly Republicans were in a position of weakness several weeks ago, they preemptively sent Assembly Democrats a list of five demands that would have to be met before they would vote for any extension of the “sunsets” – tax hikes passed in 2009 which are scheduled to expire at the end of June.

And one of the five demands was reform to the “construction defect” law which has allowed the stinking ambulance-chasing trial lawyers to figuratively rape small construction companies with frivolous lawsuits for years.

Naturally, the Democrats just blew the Assembly Republicans off.

But with last week’s Supreme Court ruling that took at least part of Gov. Sandoval’s funding stream away from him, the governor is now negotiating with Democrat leaders for a possible extension of some kind for at least some of the sunsets. And because he can, instead, cut more money from his budget rather than extend the sunsets – and has the votes to back him up in the Senate – the governor is in the catbird’s seat.

Sort of.

Word on the street is that the Democrats are willing to concede, to some degree, on four of the five Assembly GOP demands, but not on construction defects. They are, after all, a subsidiary of Trial Lawyers, Inc.

And the governor, apparently getting some serious concessions on education reform – including changes to tenure and “last in first out” – is reportedly willing to accept a deal without including construction defect reform, asserting that it is private sector reform and not government sector reform.

I disagree. Changing the law to curb lawsuit abuse which is putting construction companies out of business and construction workers out of work is absolutely good government reform. Indeed, it is clearly an important part of the government’s economic development efforts. But I digress.

The problem for the governor and the Democrats is that if all 16 Republicans in the Assembly, who previously already set construction defect reform as one of their five must-have conditions, stick to the guns and INSIST on construction defect reform being part of the deal, neither the governor nor the Democrats will have the 2/3 super-majority vote in the Assembly they need to pass an extension of the sunsets.

Which means Assembly Republicans, not the governor or the Democrats, are actually in the catbird’s seat. That is, as long as they stick together and refuse to vote for any budget deal that doesn’t include construction defect reform.

Will Assembly Republicans, who have it completely in their power to get everything they asked for, have the stones and discipline to stick together in the face of enormous pressure and WIN a huge victory for a key base of GOP support and against a mortal enemy of Assembly Republicans?

I put the odds at considerably less than 50-50. But let’s hope Assembly Republicans “man up” and make me eat those words. I’d like nothing better.

And I like a little ketchup with my crow, please.