High drama flowed through the Assembly floor Thursday night when key affordable housing legislation stood two votes short before passing.
After Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) left the roll call vote open for an hour, two of the hold-outs — Democratic Assemblymen Marc Levine of San Rafael and Adrin Nazarian of North Hollywood — returned to the floor and voted yes. Their support secured passage of Senate Bill 2, legislation that could raise $250 million annually for low-income development and one of the highest-profile measures of the year.
The next day, a Senate fiscal committee shook loose an unrelated energy bill authored by Nazarian, even though the measure had been held weeks ago — an extremely rare occurrence on the Legislature’s final day of the year.
So did Nazarian secure a promise on his bill in exchange for his vote?
No, Nazarian said.
“This is a pressure-cooker time right now,” Nazarian said in an interview with The Times on Friday afternoon. “This is what happens.”
Nazarian said he had some concerns about the housing bill, which would charge a $75 fee on most real estate transactions, and was tired of adding more fees onto taxpayers.
But he was also frustrated at the Senate for holding his bill and was striking back.
“I had decided that I would, from time to time, abstain on several bills at a time indiscriminately just so there would be a certain level of discomfort — or at least a message to the leadership that we can't be arbitrary,” he said.
Nazarian said he had expressed his concerns earlier in the week to Rendon and did so again while the two jockeyed over SB 2 on Thursday, a session fueled by coffee and beer.
For his part, Rendon also denied there had been any promises given to Levine and Nazarian for voting yes on the housing bill, simply saying the pair had been convinced.
“There were no side deals in this at all,” Rendon said after Thursday’s vote. “This was about the housing crisis that Californians have experienced for over a generation.”
Nazarian agreed, telling The Times that SB 2 was the best part of a package of housing legislation passed by lawmakers in the waning hours before they adjourn for the year at the end of Friday.
And while Nazarian’s energy bill had advanced out of a Senate committee, it was still not a sure thing to pass. As of 8:30 p.m. Friday, his measure had yet to receive a vote on the Senate floor.