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My Sunday Column: Mike Gatto and the condom measure — The Perils of Politician and How Hard It Is To Speak the Truth

Mike Gatto is a clever fellow. But like a lot of smart guys, he’s sometimes too clever for his good.

A case in point came a week ago when the AIDS Healthcare Foundation denounced the assemblyman as “a pornographer’s best friend” for blocking consideration of a bill that would require the use of condoms in all adult film production in California, a requirement approved by Los Angeles County voters last year.

The group’s president, Michael Weinstein, accused Gatto during a teleconference of “single-handedly” putting the measure on hold and refusing to let it come to a vote even when his stated concerns about its constitutionality were answered by a federal court judge in late August.

“He is serving the interests of the pornographers,” Weinstein said in announcing that 1,000 protest letters were being sent and a robo-call campaign to 100,000 of his constituents was under way.

What had happened was this: Back in May, Gatto, as chair of the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee, put a hold on the bill, AB 332.

A month later the bill’s author, Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D-Compton) gutted another bill of his, one that dealt with regulating tobacco sales, and put the language of the condom measure in its place. The tobacco bill already had cleared the Assembly but when it was changed to a condom bill, it got stalled in the Senate Rules Committee because of what they call the “jailbreak rule.”

It is a long-standing rule of the legislature, one that is only violated in exceptional circumstances, that a bill held in a committee of one house cannot be taken up in the other house without the express permission of the committee chair, in this case Mike Gatto, or the Speaker, currently John Pérez.

“The protocol and accepted practice is we would not move the bill unless the leadership of the Assembly, meaning the Speaker, asked us to do so,” said Mark Hedlund, communications director for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Yet here’s what Gatto told the L.A. Times: “I don’t control the California Senate. I’m flattered, but there are two houses of government.”

And the Daily News: “I have not made any decisions. We’re really not quite sure what they are talking about. It’s clear they are trying to engage in some public brow-beating. It’s before the Senate. It’s not before me.”

There is no possibility that a guy as smart as Gatto doesn’t know the rules as well as anybody, so at the least his comments are misleading and disingenuous.

With several new cases of HIV infection in the adult film industry in less than a month, there are concerns of a serious outbreak that could get worse.

Opposition to the condom requirement has come from the adult film industry and the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., a leading voice of the business community in the San Fernando Valley, where for decades most of the nation’s pornography has been produced.

VICA President Stuart Waldman called the measure a “bad bill,” saying it contained no funding mechanism and “doesn’t really solve the problem.”

“This is a $6 billion industry just in the Valley,” Waldman said. “Requiring the use of prophylactics will drive this multibillion-dollar industry out of the state.”

Since passage last November requiring the use of condoms in L.A. County, the number of permits for adult filming has dwindled from 500 permits in 2012 to just two this year.

Thursday was the hectic last day of this year’s state legislative session, with intense wheeling and dealing going on, but Gatto agreed to answer my questions in writing.

I submitted emailed questions about why the condom bill was held in his committee and whether the last-minute negotiations on it were likely to lead to it going forward.

The key question was this: “How does the Assemblyman square his comments to the Times and Daily News with the ‘jailbreak rule,’ which is intended to prevent utter chaos and destruction of the committee system?”

In his emailed response, Gatto noted the bill was held “on suspense,” along with hundreds of others, “because of cost concerns,” litigation and enforcement costs in this case amid doubts about “whether such a law could ever be enforced.”

He suggested state inspectors might be required on film sets, saying, “Imagine a government official asking a filmmaker, ‘Excuse me Mr. Spielberg, but what will your upcoming film portray, and would you mind if we posted a monitor on the set?’”

He noted the bills, if passed, would not take effect for more than a year, so they would have no impact on reducing concerns about an HIV epidemic in the adult film industry and addressed the core question this way:

“As for the rest of your questions, I know even you can’t seriously expect me to try to prove a negative. The California Senate has its own rules, and I serve in the Assembly. I can tell you that the framers of our constitution put legislative procedures in place specifically to avoid hasty, emotional decisions, and prevent tactics that undermine the legislative process and committee procedures.”

His response ended: “It’s clear that AHF is trying to bully the legislature into spending taxpayer money, and that they don’t understand the legislative process. There are two houses of government, and I don’t have a vote in the Senate, let alone control it.”

He’s sticking to his guns and denying that there is a protocol of civility between the Assembly and the Senate, insisting the “jailbreak rule” does not have the force of law, so it is irrelevant.

So it’s not Mike Gatto’s fault the condom bill died as the session ended. Just ask him.



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14 Responses to My Sunday Column: Mike Gatto and the condom measure — The Perils of Politician and How Hard It Is To Speak the Truth

  1. LA Moderator says:

    “:Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., a leading voice of the business community”…haven’t we seen enough that there should be an ‘allegedly’ in there somewhere?

    Now porn is such an important part of our economy that we we’re concerned that it’s moving to ‘Sin City’?

    Where were they when all those industries and warehouses were being vacated in the past?

    • anonymous says:

      we agree…VICA as “leadership”…HA!
      during corrupt redistricting last year,
      we witnessed VICA “leadership”
      betray the best interests of the valley…
      indolent dullards and snakes in the grass…

  2. LA Moderator says:

    “:Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., a leading voice of the business community”…haven’t we seen enough that there should be an ‘allegedly’ in there somewhere?

    Now porn is such an important part of our economy that we we’re concerned that it’s moving to ‘Sin City’?

    Where were they when all those industries and warehouses (now filled with porn producerss) were being vacated in the past?

  3. teddy says:

    In my opinion, the government is not legitimately to be involved in our personal
    lives – these events are responsible for their promoters. Our tax money needs to
    be spent more wisely no matter how the promoters have donated to political campaigns.

    What idiocy. Sex is personal not a commercial event.

  4. ex valley says:

    Wow all this fight over porn. How about getting some real business? Like where people wear clothes and condoms are not part of working conditions ?

    Ha ha ha

    • Rita-of-Sunland says:

      Don’t discount the porn industry— it’s been keeping the San Fernando Valley going for AGES. (I oughta know, I was a film reviewer in the business for several years, under the name “Wally Wharton,” which is also my FB name and VERY CLOSE to my actual name.)

      • ex valley says:

        Rita, my point was that you cannot have porn as the basis of the valley economy. You need real middle class jobs to have certain quality of life. Dependence on people humping in front of the camera is not sustainable.
        No personal offense but I find the people who make their from porn (whether “acting” or other role) and who buy and watch these “movies” equally objectionable and wrong.
        But don’t feel bad – I can’t stand Hollywood mainstream movies and crowd either.
        The proliferation of porn and its acceptance as new normal do cause significant damage to the society.

        • Rita-of-Sunland says:

          What wrong w/ the porn industry if they’re not doing anything illegal? There are LOTS of jobs that are connected to industries I don’t especially care for. So what? I don’t have the right to make value judgments on the many ways people make their livings, and neither do you. Also, the porn industry is indirectly responsible for many technological advancements. Thanks to the “video revolution” of years ago, sleazy X-rated movie theaters went the way of the dodo, and porn became something adults could enjoy privately, if they so choose, leaving those neighborhoods open for new types of businesses.

  5. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Ron-in-Hiding 09/18/2013 whose posts have to await moderation because he's a weeniee says:

    Mike Gatto is a WEENIE—So it’s appropriate he’d be involved with “coverings” for such an instrumentality! He’s all set to inherit CD14 after the Conquistador Huizer is termed out. This would be an appropriate replacement—recall that Columbus was an Italian who explored and plundered the New World for the King and Queen of Spain. Now after all these centuries—we’ll have an Italian replacing a Spanish decendant to of course plunder and destroy the Natives (those natives being the single family owned and occupied homes in L.A. City) for the Modern Day King—Obama! See, like Harry Chapin said “All of Life’s a Circle; From Sun up to Sun Down…” We just keep repeating the same bale of crap over and over and over again….

  6. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Ron-in-Hiding 09/19/2013 whose posts have to await moderation because he's a weeniee says:

    Ron’s currently on assignment, Reporting live from Downtown L.A.:
    There are many welfare mooches, women dressed as prostitutes with tatoos and the usual Iphones, beggars, and many others that look like college students with backpacks. Mayor Garbage charges $2/hour for meter parking here but $5/hour 2 blocks west near the Jewelry District for some reason. In other words L.A. is basically Downtown a City of Loooooossssssseeeeerrrrrsssss!! There are many small businesses, however, trying to make a go of it selling/repairing computers, parts and supplies for jewelers, plumbers, that kind of stuff. No pot shops, I’m pleased to report in the area. Lots of cops, however, pulling over motorists and ticketing the hell out of them.
    I see no one reported on the radio or blogs the results of Tues primary for 2JOBBOB’s old legislative seat! This despite millions poured into that race. I never got a provisional ballot, so apparently the County had to “invite” you to vote? Ron will one day return again to report on these kinds of criminally-run elections. Until then, the Old Guy is taking a much needed rest from this stuff.

  7. anonymous says:

    Ex-Valley, I agree with you 100 percent. Porn is an addiction and has been promoted over the years through fraudulent research (Kinsey), funded by the porn industry. For the few that actually like acting in these films, there are so many that resort to drugs to survive the exploitation and dehumanization this industry creates. Then there are the under aged, those who are trafficked (the US being one of the largest customers), virtual pimping and more that contribute to the demise of a society. My stance may be considered prudish, but I have seen lives ruined because of this addiction.
    And, yes, this extends to Hollywood mainstream.

  8. teddy says:

    The Porn Industry must love this part of your blog, Ron. They are grtting wonder4ful advertising!

  9. anonymous says:

    Do the police enforce this?

  10. JEAN FLEMING says:

    Thank you for letting us know what is going on politically in the L. A area. Of course I agree with you most of the time

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