With only a few days left before California legislators recess for 2015, a Los Angeles assemblyman is introducing a bill that will no doubt attract an intense lobbying effort from both sides: Permanent approval for importing products made from kangaroos.
The emergence of the bill comes after months of intense Capitol speculation about whether Australian officials were quietly mounting an effort to kill a long-standing ban on kangaroo products. That ban has not been in effect for the last eight years, but is scheduled to resume at the end of the year.
"They're shoving this through in the last days of the session," said Jennifer Fearing, a Humane Society lobbyist. "The Legislature should just shut this down."
The proposal comes technically too late for legislative action, as all deadlines for new bills and bill amendments have passed. But lawmakers often circumvent those rules by removing the contents of an existing bill and replacing them with new language. It's what's known in Sacramento parlance as a "gut and amend."
Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Los Angeles, is the author of the bill and says it's important for the Legislature to act quickly on preserving the importation of products made from kangaroo skin.
"We want to make sure we continue to do business," said Gipson in a brief interview on Tuesday. "I believe in continuing to move the economy in California forward."
The freshman assemblyman says he has met with representatives of the Australian government, and that the issue "wasn't on my radar" until recently.
Animal rights groups, though, have been closely tracking the moves of pro-kangaroo import efforts during the spring and summer months. Fearing and others were carefully watching, for example, as lawmakers snapped photos with a kangaroo and other exotic animals in late May at a Capitol event sponsored by SeaWorld.
Gipson was one of those photographed by onlookers.
"They're ignoring the fact that there are dozens of experts globally who've raised serious concerns that [kangaroo] populations are crashing," said Fearing. "The Legislature would be well served by a full vetting of these concerns."
Legislators are scheduled to adjourn for the year on Sept. 11.