Legislature has until midnight to vote on pending bills; still no budget

A view of the California State Capitol February 19, 2009 in Sacramento, California.
A view of the California State Capitol February 19, 2009 in Sacramento, California.
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The state legislature has until midnight to vote on a pile of pending bills. The ones they pass eventually will land on the governor’s desk.

There's still no state budget, but California will likely have one by November, according to political reporter Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he's willing to let it roll over to the next governor in January if Schwarzenegger doesn't get what he wants.

The debate is driven by the fact that this is an election year, according to Walters. Not knowing who the next governor is, measures on the November ballot that will affect the budget, and legislators being up for election, re-election, or seeking another office all play into the budget debate dynamic.

The most contentious bill may be the one that would ban plastic bags. The plastic bag bill is getting the most media attention, as well as the most attention from legislators and lobbyists. The state capitol is packed with lobbyists as the deadline draws near.

There's a strong lobbying effort against the plastic bag ban. The chemical industry wants to kill the bill because California is a big market, as well as a trendsetter for the rest of the nation.

There are also key pieces of health insurance legislation. Senate Bill 1163 would require health insurance companies to provide more information, including a 60 day warning to the public that they intend to raise rates.

One consumer group says that this is a great piece of legislation, while another is arguing that it is a huge giveaway to Anthem Blue Cross.

The health insurance industry hates the other bill, which would subject health insurers to detailed rate regulation. It's being carried in the Assembly by the Democratic candidate for insurance commissioner, Dave Jones. He will get more power if this bill becomes law.

All of these bills not only have to get through the legislature, but they also need Governor Schwarzenegger's signature. The lobbying will continue after tonight's session, pushing for Schwarzenegger to either sign or veto different bills.

Schwarzenegger basically has a month to sign. He has longer to sign or veto bills sent to him in the last days of the legislative session – ordinarily, he would have just 12 days.

These bills won't all immediately end up on Schwarzenegger's desk – they take a couple of weeks to process and get the physical bill to the governor to either sign or veto.

Schwarzenegger will also be gone for part of that time, as he's planning a trip to Asia in another week.

Audio: Political reporter Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee talks with KPCC’s Steve Julian about the pending legislation and the lack of a state budget.