Senate Republicans called a temporary halt to Senate debate this afternoon, slowing down the operation of the house as the legislature races against a key legislative deadline.
The Republicans’ decision to go into a closed-door caucus came in the middle of the debate on one of the major bills of the year – a proposal to ban plastic bags at grocery stores and many other retail outlets.
Lawmakers are hoping to vote on dozens of bills Tuesday, the final day of the 2010 legislative session. Lawmakers must adjourn by midnight, as required by the state constitution.
That means if Democrats – or anybody else, for that matter—want their bills to get to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk, they need the Senate and Assembly to act quickly. Judging from the actions of Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) Tuesday afternoon, Republicans aren’t quite as eager as their Democratic counterparts to work their way through that stack of bills.
And why would they be? Most of the bills pending before the house—be it a ban on plastic bags or a change of rules for health-insurance providers—are authored by Democrats. The clock can now help Republicans do what their numbers in the Legislature don’t allow them to do—kill legislation they don’t like but are powerless to stop.
There is an important exception to the midnight deadline. The Legislature may actually pass bills after midnight tonight—but only bills that require the approval of two-thirds of the lawmakers of each house. That is to say any bills passed after midnight would need at least some Republican support.
It could make for a very long night in the state Capitol. Stay tuned for details.