Assembly Democrats prevail on water bill

Times Staff Writer

In a heated debate Thursday, Assembly Republicans and Democrats agreed that California needs more reliable water supplies.

But Republicans voted against spending $820 million from voter-approved water bonds because, they said, Democrats had not consulted them and too much of the money was dedicated to studies instead of construction.

“I’m studied out,” said Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R-San Diego). “What my constituents want is brick and mortar.”


But the dominant Democrats overrode Republicans’ objections and passed a bill to spend $820 million from four water bonds.

The money would go toward preparing for an earthquake in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, from which most of the state’s drinking and irrigation water is pumped; finding supplies for rural communities with contaminated aquifers; and projects around the state for conservation, recycling and groundwater cleanup.

“This is about putting to work money the voters want us to put to work,” said Assemblywoman Lori Saldana (D-San Diego).

With three days remaining to approve or reject bills, the Legislature also acted to ban dogs in drivers’ laps, improve patients’ access to information on end-of-life care, adjust laws on abandoned newborns and put warning labels on fruity drinks called “alcopops.”

The water measure, SB 1XX by Senate President Don Perata (D-Oakland), passed 43 to 25 and goes next to the Senate for approval of amendments.

Of the $18.5 billion California voters have agreed to borrow since 1996 for water projects, nearly $11 billion has been spent.

The measure to help terminally ill people received final passage in the Assembly on Thursday. It would require doctors and nurses to describe all legal end-of-life options for them, such as hospice care at home and the right to refuse treatment.

Republicans rejected the bill as a “slippery slope” that could encourage a sick person to seek death rather than burden family with their care.

“Life is precious and given by God,” said Assemblyman Ted Gaines (R-Roseville), “so why are we looking for an opportunity to end life early?”

Democratic Assemblywoman Patty Berg of Eureka, author of the measure, AB 2747, said it was “built on a simple premise that better information leads to better outcomes.” The measure passed 42 to 33.

The Assembly also passed bills that would ban people from driving with pets in their arms or on their laps starting next July and require makers of flavored alcoholic drinks -- often packaged to look like lemonade, cola or fruit drinks -- to put the uppercase phrase “Contains Alcohol” on each bottle.

The pet bill, AB 2233 by Assemblyman Bill Maze (R-Visalia), and the “alcopops” bill, AB 346 by Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr. (D-San Jose), have not been sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because he has threatened to veto any non-budget bill sent to him before the Legislature approves a spending plan. The budget is 60 days overdue.

Meanwhile, in the state Senate, lawmakers approved a measure that would extend from 72 hours to seven days the period during which a newborn may be safely surrendered to a fire station or hospital with no prosecution for abandonment.

In L.A. County, where parents have a 72-hour amnesty period, four babies have been safely surrendered since January. County supervisors, saying existing law was adequate, opposed the bill.

Still, AB 2262 by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico (D-Newark) passed 33 to 3 and returns to the Assembly for final approval.


Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.