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End of Session Watch: Tuesday wrap-up

Tuesday, Sept. 8,  9:40 p.m.

 

Here are some of the major actions in the Capitol from Tuesday, Sept. 8.

 

South Coast Air Quality District

 

Negotiations intensified Tuesday over legislation aimed at resolving a dispute between the South Coast Air Quality Management District and environmentalists. Last year, a court ruling blocked the AQMD from continuing its system of distributing and selling emission credits. The court's decision skided with environmentalists, but the district — and others — said the decision cost thousands of jobs in a recession-plagued economy. Sen. Rod Wright's SB 696, in effect, repeals the court's decision and lets AQMD's emissions credit program go forward.

 

Click here for an earlier CW story…

 

 

Renewable Portfolio Standard

 

Two major utilities — PG&E and San Diego Gas and Electric — appear to be on board with major legislation requiring the state to get a third of its electricity from generation powered by wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources by 2020. The third major investor-owned utility, Edison, remained opposed.

 

Two bills, AB 64 by Paul Krekorian, D-Los Angeles, and SB 14 by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, both deal with the RPS and are at the heart of the negotiations.

 

Click here for Capitol Weekly's latest story…

 

Health Care cancellations

 

The Senate passed a measure that would require health plans to abide by new standards before canceling a patient’s health care coverage. The measure now goes back to the Assembly for a procedural vote before going on to the governor’s desk.

 

AB 2 by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate, passed off the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.

 

Schwarzenegger has vetoed similar legislation in the past.

 

Local Government Bankruptcies

 

The Assembly passed a new version of an old bill that would make it harder for local governments to declare bankruptcy. The measure is backed by labor unions and opposed by the California League of Cities.

 

The measure passed with the bare minimum 41 votes, and now faces a tough vote in the Senate.

 

University of California pay

 

The Assembly passed a bill that would prohibit pay raises for UC executives in bad budget years. The measure had been bottled up by the Assembly Appropriations committee and moved to the suspense file – even though a Department of Finance analysis found the bill could only save the state money.

 

Thanks to a last-minute gut-and-amend maneuver, the issue lives again, and now heads back to the Senate, this time as SB 86. The measure passed 63-1.

 

University Foundations

 

Over protests from the state’s public university systems and community colleges, the Senate passed a bill by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, that would make non-profit foundations set up by the universities subject to the public records act. The bill was sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, and opposed by theUniversity of California, the California State University system and the Community College Chancellor’s office.

 

Stadium watch:

 

A plan to provide exemptions from environmental laws for a football stadium complex in Los Angeles County may be heard as early as Wednesday. But another stadium plan is also in the mix. San Francisco lawmakers are split on SB 84 by San Fracisco Democrat Mark Leno. The bill would transfer some state land to the city of San Francisco to pave the way for a massive new development at Candelstick Point that may include a new football stadium for the San Francisco 49ers.

 

The bill is being pushed by Mayor Gavin Newsom and backed by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco and Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, oppose the measure.

 

Alcohol bills
Watching the progress of bills relating to one of California's top industries — alcohol — often provides some interesting end-of-session entertainment.

Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate, is back with a measure that would prevent self-service grocery stores from selling alcohol. His effort last year, AB 523, died in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee. His current bill, AB 1060, has made it through both Senate G.O. and Appropriations, and appears to have a decent chance of
making it to the governor's desk.

What's interesting about AB 1060 is that some consider it a union bill disguised as an alcohol bill. The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control never asked for the restriction. But union advocates don't like the main grocery chain that would be affected, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets, which are non-union shops that keep their employee count down by relying heavily on self-checkout registers.

See Capitol Weekly's coverage of the earlier bill  by clicking here.

Tuesday, Sept. 8, 4:01 p.m.

Assembly sources confirmed Tuesday that a proposal to fast-track a new football stadium in the City of Industry will soon be in print, and will be heard in the Assembly as early asWednesday.

The bill is scehduled to be heard in an ad-hoc meeting of the Assembly Arts and Entertainment Committee, and then fast-tracked to the Assembly floor.

But Los Angeles County Supervisors voiced their objection to the plan Tuesday. Supervisor Gloria Molina blasted state officials for making a last minute end-run around the state's environmental laws. 

 

As of yet, there is no bill number, and no official author attached to the bill. Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, has been named as a possible jockey for the bill in the Senate.

 

The measure would provide exemptions from the California Environmntal Quality Act for a new stadium, housing and retail development plan in the City of Industry, on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County. The measure is backed by developer Edward Roski and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Both Roski and LAbor Fed leader Maria-Elena Durazo were seek entering the offices of Democratic leaders to discuss the plan late last week.

 

 

Monday, Sept. 7

 

In the final days of the regularly scheduled legislative year, there’s a lot to pay attention to. Deals are being discussed on water, prisons and alternative energy, while a flurry of policy initiatives, once forgotten have reemerged. Among them is a plan to make it harder for cities to declare bankruptcy and a possible plan to provide environmental exceptions to ease the construction of an NFL stadium in Los Angeles.

 

Here’s a quick guide to some of the bills, and issues, to follow in this last week of session.

 

Bookmark this page and check back throughout the week and circumstances change, and plot lines develop.

 

And if there’s a bill or issue you think we should watch, feel free to send us an email.

 

Among the things to look out for are:

 

The Mega Deals

 

Water

Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg says he’ll have a bill out of conference committee for a Tuesday vote. Republicans say the hastily called, and quickly convened, bipartisan panel was nothing more than a “dog and pony show.” Is there time for a megadeal to still come together?

 

Stay tuned…

 

Prisons

The Assembly has passed a pared-back version of the Senate bill. Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles is still trying to secure a deal on the issue of alternative sentencing of some older and non-violent prisoners, and a new commission that would at least guide the Legislature on new sentencing laws. Critics say the Senate bill amounts to the early release of 27,000 inmates.

 

Political opposition remains in both parties, but if all else fails, the Senate seems likely to pass something like the Assembly version.

 

Renewable Energy

Labor, utilities, environmental groups and out-of-state power generators are the major players in this end of session drama . The bill gets to the core of the issue Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cares deeply about – his legacy. At stake is a plan to demand California utilities obtain at least one-third of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020.

 

The governor is holding out for concessions for out-of-state power generators, angering labor groups. The alliances are still somewhat fluid, but ultimately, the governor needs a bill like this to secure his environmental legacy. The question is, how far is he willing to bend to get it?

 

Will environmental and labor groups attempt to strong-arm the governor, and dare him to veto a bill he doesn’t like?  The question will be among the most closely watched throughout the week.

 

The dispute is not focusing so much on the need to use more renewable energy, but on the pocketbook impact on utilities and generators of delivering the power to California. At issue, too, is the use of what are called "renewable energy credits" and market-based pricing that could effect the pace by which utilities meet there renewable energy benchmarks. 

 

Electricity revenues account for $25 billion a year for the investopr-owned utilities alone. California's manufacturers say boosting the renewable energy portfolio could raise companies' power rates by 7 percent.

 

Internet poker

Sometimes a legislative roundup includes legislation that never happened. So it was with the Internet poker proposal the M
orongo Band of Mission Indians has been pushing for the last several weeks.

 

After failing to find an author, the casino tribe announced Tuesday that they are shelving the idea for now — but could be back in January, The Desert Sun of Palm Springs reported.

 

"In our consultations with other tribes, some concerns have been raised, and we want to make sure we address those concerns so this can benefit everyone,'' said tribal spokesman Patrick Dorinson said. "We are going to redouble our efforts, and present this in January to the Legislature."

 

Read Capitol Weekly's earlier coverage of Morongo online poker bid here.

 

 

Other issues to look out for

 

Local government bankruptcy (SB 88)

This bill pits local labor groups – particulary firefighters – against cities. By making it harder for local governments to declare bankruptcy, it eliminates a key weapon locals have in negotiating union contracts. City officials say it will hasten the fiscal demise of local governments, while

 

The original version of this bill, AB 155, died in the Senate Local Government Committee. But since this is the resurrection season, it has been stuffed back into a Mark DeSaulnier bill for the final week.  

 

Read Capitol Weekly's earlier coverage of the issue here.

 

Health coverage cancellation (AB 2)

This bill is part of Assemblyman Hector De La Torre’s four-year effort to end the practice of health insurance providers unilaterally dropping customers from insurance rolls. This bill requires health plans to perform underwriting when an individual applies for health insurance, and requires state regulators to set up criteria and a process to review health insurance cancellations.

 

Gubernatorial appointments

Senate Rules has slowed dow the pace of confirming the governor's appointees. All part of the typical hostage taking that happens at the end of session. But with some high-profile names on the list, it is worth watching to see who is confirmed before the Legisalture adjourns, and who is left hanging. 

 

Hospitals and doctors (SB 7226)

A major bill authored by Sen. Roy Ashburn would allow hospitals to employ doctors, a practice that currently is allowed in 45 other states. Backers say the bill would enable hospitals and clinics in rural and underserved areas to offer doctors stability and financial security, thus luring doctors to places that traditionally have offered only scant care.

 

The major opposition to the bill is coming from the California Medical Association, which believes the practice could lead to conflicts of interest and allow hospital officials to make decisions that should be left to the doctors.


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