Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hanging in suspense

A deadline for producing legislation has come and gone, and water stakeholders continue hanging in suspense.

The conference committee that has spent the past week hashing out a package of water legislation focusing on the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta faced a Tuesday deadline for finalizing its conference report, which would then go to the floors of the Senate and Assembly for approval by Friday, the last day of this year's session.

But the committee never met yesterday, its 14 members preoccupied by long floor sessions. The committee is again scheduled to meet today, whenever the chairs —Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass — call it.

Some terse words have been offered by Republicans on the effectiveness of the conference committee, saying Republican input hasn't been heeded.

Steinberg's response:

“Over the past three weeks the Legislature has held six lengthy public hearings with full Republican input. ... I have assured Republican members that the policy pieces will not be debated on our floors until they are joined with a comprehensive finance proposal. I urge my Republican colleagues to hold their judgment until that work is completed, which will be no later than Friday.”

The circumstances seem to bolster the pessimistic comments one often hears regarding lawmakers' chances of passing historic water legislation on such a tight deadline, after years of failure on the issue.

Even so, the progress has been measurable, with Democrats and Republicans narrowing the gap on an infrastructure bond — Republicans having adopted the environmental projects that Democrats want, and Democrats overcoming their own aversion to storage infrastructure.

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