Budget Not the Only Game in Town For Lawmakers

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lawmakers have been doing an awful lot of this lately…
“all those who desire to vote…..fade under”

That’s because the two-year legislative session wraps up on the 31st.  And the Assembly has been trying to finish even sooner to allow some members to attend the Democratic convention.  If you’re a termed out lawmaker, this is your last chance to get bills through.  Democrat John Laird’s term in the Assembly is up.  He says it’s a hectic time:

“Oh it’s a horrible crazy situation and there’ll be times in my legislative career when that somebody’s run in and said you have 18 votes in the Senate you need 3 more.  They’re talking about it now and you have to get a pass and run over there and try to calm down the remaining votes and get it across.”

Laird says he expects to get at least 16 bills to the Governor’s desk.  But a number like that is unheard of if you’re in the minority party.  Republican Assemblyman Roger Neillo:

 “I think my maximum possible universe of surviving bills wound down to about 4 or 5.”

But the GOP holds another kind of power at this time of year.  Their votes are needed to pass a budget.  The lack of a state spending plan is hanging over lawmakers’ heads – but Niello says legislators still have to - well, legislate.  He says the budget’s worked out elsewhere:

That’s happening mostly in leadership talks and that’s going on behind the scenes while we’re spending all of this time on the floor.”

So lawmakers meet for hours each day – order dinner in – and try to keep from getting too cranky while they debate new policies for the state.  But wait a minute – didn’t Governor Schwarzenegger vow not to sign any bills until lawmakers passed a budget?  Democratic Assemblyman Hector De La Torre says he’s mindful of that:

“It would be a lost year.  I don’t think we’ll get to that.  I think over the course of the next few weeks we’ll be able to figure it out.  Maybe not having the legislation preoccupy everybody will be helpful in terms of focusing everybody’s attention on the budget.”

Over the past 30 years, the latest lawmakers have passed a budget is August 31.