Lawmakers are paid to make tough decisions, and they faced one in April with an Assembly bill to place a fee on liquor wholesalers.
The fee was part of an effort to mitigate the huge costs of alcohol-related problems in California, which place a burden on taxpayers and the state's general fund.
But amid fierce opposition from the liquor industry, the bill stalled in committee.
Why? It wasn't because a majority of the 19-member Assembly Health Committee voted against it. AB 1019, authored by Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr., was defeated because nine of the committee's members didn't vote at all.
"Taking a pass" is hardly a rare occurrence at the Capitol. A recent story by The Bee's Phillip Reese reported that legislators frequently opt to abstain rather than vote a bill up or down.
According to a Legislative Counsel's Office database, lawmakers skipped 22,000 of the 300,000 votes that have taken place so far this session.
In some cases, legislators missed votes for legitimate reasons. In a few others, they abstained in pursuit of a better deal. But in a large number of votes, they just couldn't stomach taking a stand.
Either they feared the future political ramifications of their votes, or they were just trying to stay on good terms with the omnipresent special interests.
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