On Monday, just ahead of the Secretary of State’s deadline to send the Voter Information Guide to print, the legislature passed AB 1265 (Caballero and Jefferies) which delayed a vote on the water bond until the November 2012 election. In making a case for passing the measure, Assemblymember Caballero acknowledged that the bond was in trouble this November and that bond proponents needed more time to sell the measure.
Governor Schwarzenegger first asked the legislature to remove the water bond, which was Proposition 18, from the November ballot in June, citing the downed economy and the budget crisis. However, newspapers across the state quickly pointed out that timing was not the main obstacle confronting the measure. In fact, the bond’s contents and size are what the voters really opposed.
In both houses, the measure received the bare minimum number of votes needed to pass. In the Assembly, the bill was put up for a vote two times before finally getting the requisite number of votes at 9:30 PM.
A bi-partisan coalition of legislators worked hard to prevent AB 1265 from passing, knowing that the water bond would not get better with time. Assemblymember Jared Huffman, who led the charge in the assembly for last year’s water package, was a vocal opponent of now delaying the bond. In the assembly he was joined by a solid group legislators of both stripes including the entire Delta delegation of Democrats Mariko Yamada and Joan Buchanan and Republican Bill Berryhill. In all, 22 assembly members stood firm with the many environmental groups opposing AB 1265, including PCL, the Sierra Club, and Food and Water Watch.
In the senate, Senator Lois Wolk of Davis, another Delta legislator, rallied the Democrats who had stood fast against the bond last year. Senators Corbett, DeSaulnier, Hancock, Leno and Yee were joined by Republican George Runner in opposing AB 1265.
As the bill was being debated, there was much talk of the opportunity to spend some time over the next legislative session re-negotiating the bond with the hope of developing a proposal more palatable to the voters. With this water bond pulled from this November’s ballot, the legislature also has the opportunity to pursue other proposals for ensuring California has a safe and reliable water supply for all Californians and for our environment.