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Political Landscape:

Slate of bills awaiting votes

August 15, 2009

With a solution to California’s budget crisis in place, although perhaps only a temporary one, legislators are anxiously preparing to push through a series of laws not directly tied to the state’s fiscal health when they return from a recess on Aug. 17.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed off last month on a set of budgetary solutions agreed to by the state Senate and Assembly, although he topped it off with a set of line-item vetoes to ensure that the state would have a reserve fund.

Many of his vetoes, worth nearly $500 million, came from health and social service programs, rubbing some lawmakers the wrong way.

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Still, the break from budget talks has left lawmakers ready to race back to action and turn their bills into law.

Among the bills heading toward major decisions is Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian’s AB 64, which would require utilities to produce a third of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

The bill is set to go before the Senate’s Appropriations Committee at the start of the legislative session, a major change from recent months of budget cuts that left Krekorian and other lawmakers feeling uncomfortable, said Krekorian’s spokesman, Jeremy Oberstein.

“Of course the assemblyman would rather be enacting real worthy environmental legislation that would significantly improve California’s landscape for the next decade than running in place,” Oberstein said.

Despite lingering bitterness related to the budget, lawmakers have been celebrating some of the governor’s recent actions.

Several local legislators have already succeeded in passing legislation, with Schwarzenegger signing off on five bills from Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Portantino alone.

Portantino’s recent successes include a bill that bans big rig trucks from the Angeles Crest Highway, and another the California Council on Science and Technology to provide up to 10 experts to act as consultants in Sacramento offices.

“It’s basically an opportunity to get a wealth of professional knowledge into the capital at no cost to taxpayers,” Portantino said.

The experts will offer insights to lawmakers often faced with setting laws dealing with complex scientific and technological issues, he said.

The governor also signed off on Senate Bill 123, by Democratic Sen. Carol Liu, that will streamline the state’s Career Resource Network, which distributes materials to help residents take the appropriate steps toward their desired professions.

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