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Legislators try to revive old bills

Liu, Gatto and Portantino introduce items in hopes of passage by new governor.

December 15, 2010|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com

Local lawmakers used a brief legislative session this month to dust off old bills that never made it, and to push new proposals ahead of the new year.

State Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) reintroduced two measures that failed last year, including one vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will no longer be in office in January.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) introduced several bills, including a far-reaching overhaul of the state's ballot initiative process. Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has introduced four bills, including two that failed last year.

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All told, they were among the more than 130 bills introduced by lawmakers from throughout the state that might see a different fate with a new governor come January.

Liu reintroduced a proposal to allow welfare seekers to use volunteer work in order to qualify for food stamps. It passed the Legislature, but Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill in September.

Liu spokesman Robert Oakes said the measure would extend federal benefits — not state money — to a larger percentage of California's unemployed.

"It's federal money that will come directly to California to help people get back on their feet," Oakes said. "It received bipartisan support in both houses last year. We're hoping the new governor will see the wisdom in it."

Liu's other measure would expand the role of the state in advising seniors and disabled people on the equipment they need in their homes to live independently.

Last year, the Senate Appropriations Committee iced the bill because of concerns that it would cost the state money. But Oakes said it would save money by keeping people at home rather than living for extended periods at nursing facilities.

Gatto proposes a multi-part overhaul of the state ballot process. Voter-passed initiatives, which cannot be overturned by the Legislature, have locked in spending for specific programs. And the number of initiatives has expanded, cluttering the state ballot year after year.

"If in 1910 an initiative passed to stimulate the horse carriage industry, it is probably still on the books," Gatto said.

Initiatives should be subject to legislative oversight before they go to the ballot, and the number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot should be increased, he said. And propositions that would cost the state money should have to identify a specific revenue source, he added.

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