Bills are cascading out of the Legislature in free-fall as lawmakers race to adjournment for the year, most measures headed for the governor with little debate.
It's the annual sprint to "do something" — to make a mark, regardless of how faint.
Not all the bills, however, are as innocuous as they're treated.
One such measure, granted final passage last week by the state Assembly, would substantially change California's court system by allowing noncitizen legal immigrants to serve on juries.
Nowhere else in America is a noncitizen permitted to be a juror — not in any state, not in any federal court.
The bill, AB 1401, was discussed on the Assembly floor for only seven minutes before being sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on a party-line vote, 48 to 28, with most Democrats in favor, all Republicans opposed.
It often amazes me how issues that really shouldn't have a partisan hue wind up being voted on as if they're either blue or red.
There's no indication how the Democratic governor feels about opening up juries to noncitizens, or even if he has thought about it.
In the Assembly, the presiding Democrat initially called for the vote even before any opponent could speak.
But freshman Assemblyman Rocky Ch?ez, R-Oceanside, insisted.
"What is the problem that we're trying to solve?" Ch?ez asked. "Is there a shortage of people offering to serve on juries?" Couldn't be that, Ch?ez said, reporting that 6 million Californians showed up for jury duty last year and that 165,000 were chosen.
Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee that sponsored the bill, said the measure was about making jury pools more inclusive.
He said that noncitizen legal immigrants already can be judges.
But later I called a staffer, who couldn't tell me how many noncitizen judges there are. I can't imagine a governor appointing a noncitizen to the bench, or one getting elected over any citizen rival.
After all, you must be a citizen to be eligible to serve in the Legislature and write the laws. You have to be a citizen to be a governor who signs the laws. And you have to be a citizen to vote and elect the lawmakers.
It seems incongruous to allow noncitizens to determine whether a defendant has broken a law.
"Immigrants are our friends, immigrants are our neighbors, immigrants are our co-workers, immigrants are our family members," said Wieckowski, whose Bay Area district is half-populated by ethnic Asians, only roughly half of them registered voters, indicating that many are noncitizens.
The assemblyman told me that there are 3.4 million permanent noncitizen immigrants in California. "They are not being included," he said. "We lose their perspectives."
Supporters of the bill — including Assembly Speaker John A. P?ez, D-Los Angeles — have cast it as a discrimination issue. They note that African Americans, Asians and even women were once barred from juries. Opening juries to noncitizens is just the latest reform, they assert.
And what would be the next reform? Allowing noncitizens to vote? This issue isn't about discrimination — about race or gender. It's about qualifications to be a juror. Nothing prevents a legal immigrant of whatever color from taking a course on Americanism and becoming a naturalized citizen.