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Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said this afternoon that she'll make another effort before adjournment tonight to nail down votes for prison reform legislation.

"We're close but not quite there," Bass said on a Los Angeles radio show, adding that Democrats would go into private caucus to discuss whether to approve so-called "alternative custody" for inmates as part of an overall prison reform package.

The Senate approved a measure, backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, aimed at cutting the prison population by some 27,000 inmates to both save money and meet demands from federal judges. But the Assembly balked, with Democrats openly worried about being branded soft on crime, and approved a milder measure that the Senate has refused to take up.

Bass also said she expects that backroom negotiations over water will "take all day" with no guarantees of success. Negotiations have shifted to proposed bond issues to finance water development. But, Bass confirmed, some Democrats are balking because water bonds could freeze out borrowing for schools and other projects and their repayment would reduce money for other spending.


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