Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Migden pushes Houston's button literally.

Migden pushes Houston's button

AH, WHO CARES about that pile of laws state legislators heaped on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk in the final hours of the last session.

What people really want to know is this: What on earth possessed ultra-liberal Sen. Carole Migden of San Francisco to push the voting button of ultra-conservative GOP Assemblyman Guy Houston of San Ramon?

Conspiracy theorists are sucking up the news like a junkie snorts cocaine, but the incident more closely resembles a rejected "West Wing" television plot.

Here's how Houston described the "ghost" vote, as state lawmakers and staffers are referring to it:

It is Aug. 31, and Sen. Migden is lobbying on the Assembly floor for her bill, which would require cosmetics manufacturers to advise the state if their products contain cancer-causing ingredients.

Migden's presence is typical. Senators routinely troll the Assembly floor like bass tournament boats on Clear Lake.

As the lawmakers vote, the bill comes up one shy of passage and time is running out.

In a bizarre move, the zealous Democratic senator punches a Republican Assemblyman's yes-vote button.

Houston's startled seatmate, Southern California GOP Assemblyman Bob Huff, watches as Migden then calls for the vote to close.

Huff swiftly reverses Migden's action.

And just where is Houston while a Democratic senator appropriates his vote?

He's in the back of the chamber lobbying the governor's staff about a couple of his bills.

"Then I looked up and I saw all these goings-on at my desk," Houston recalls. "I went over and (Huff) started telling me what happened. I couldn't believe it. I mean, Migden usually pushes my buttons but this takes it to a new level."

After the dust settles, the Democrats round up enough votes to pass the bill.

Migden issues profuse and personal apologies to Houston and Assembly leaders. (Migden reportedly believed she was pushing Democratic Assemblyman Hector De La Torre's voting button.)

Granted, Assembly lawmakers, particularly seatmates, cast votes for the other in the event one is deep in conversation across the room.

But clearly, a senator has no business voting in the Assembly and the veteran Migden knows better, which means she probably hasn't heard the last of it.

Senate Republicans all yelled "Aye!" when a clerk called Migden's name during roll call at a recent floor session, and she's become the butt of ghostvote-buster jokes.

On a more serious note, Assembly leaders plan to send a letter to Senate Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, "that will express our unhappiness with what occurred," Houston said. "What happens after that, I don't know."

But was it a conspiracy?

If it was, she botched the job.

Migden punched Houston's voting button in plain view of a Republican, while a reporter stood just a few feet away.

"She wasn't being sneaky at all," Houston says. "I think she just got very excited. She wanted her bill to pass ... I don't think she'll ever do it again, though."

At the very least, a reduction in caffeine intake is in order.

h/t: patterico