What’s the rush? California Legislature reaches its new deadline

Sacramento Bee

By Jim Miller and Christopher Cadelago, September 12, 2017

Last-minute amendments have defined the final days of California legislative sessions as much as lawmakers’ busy fundraising calendars and Capitol hallways jammed with lobbyists.

Some amendments involved wholesale changes to a bill, with the measures coming up for votes only hours later, if that.

Not this year. Because of voters’ approval last fall of Proposition 54, today is the last day for any bill to be amended and still be considered by Friday’s 2017 session finale.

The change is the product of the November 2016 constitutional amendment bankrolled by wealthy Republican activist Charles Munger Jr. that requires bills to be in print for 72 hours before final floor votes. It passed with more than 65 percent of the vote.

What defines a final floor vote has been a subject of debate this year, with the two houses taking different interpretations of the requirement.

Earlier this year the Assembly approved dozens of Assembly bills that had been amended less than 72 hours earlier. That prompted complaints from Proposition 54 proponents, who said they were reviewing their legal options.

Many of those bills were later amended in the Senate, requiring them to return to the Assembly for a final concurrence vote. And on measures that passed the Senate without changes, the Assembly so far has taken “concurrence in final form” votes on two bills based on its interpretation of Proposition 54.

That’s a long ways from the final days of last year’s session, which ended Aug. 31, 2016. Legislative records showed that at least 50 bills took amendments posted within three days of the floor vote in the respective house.

Among the key bills that have yet to emerge in final form is the plan to spend some $1.5 billion in revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program. Negotiations continued on the package Monday.

Lawmakers also are trying to reach agreement on a multibillion-dollar parks and water bond for the November 2018 ballot.