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UPDATE: Late Tuesday afternoon, Senate President Darrell Steinberg decided to give the Assembly more time to develop a more far-reaching, cost-cutting prison plan than it adopted on Aug. 31.

Steinberg earlier in the day said the Senate might take up the Assembly bill as early as today but later backed away after consulting with Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, although he declined to discuss specifics of their conversation.

"I'm not sure when I'm going to take it up," Steinberg said of the Assembly's current prison package, "because I still hold out hope that the Assembly will pass the other important pieces of the overall package."

An hour earlier, Steinberg had indicated he was ready to take up the Assembly plan, implying that he had abandoned hopes that the Assembly would move closer to the Senate-passed version, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also supports.

The Senate-passed plan is aimed at saving $1.2 billion in the current budget by reducing the inmate population by some 27,000 inmates. The Assembly balked, however, because of stiff opposition from law enforcement groups and removed several features, including a commission to overhaul the state's criminal sentencing laws.

The Assembly version would reduce inmates by about 17,000 and save less than a billion dollars. Steinberg had criticized his fellow Democrats in the Assembly for backing away, calling it "just another example of a culture of failure" and missing a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to get a law-and-order Republican governor to sign sweeping sentencing and prison changes

"I'm in no hurry to take up what they passed yesterday," Steinberg said last week after the Assermbly action. Today, howewver, Steinberg said that adjourning the 2009 session without accepting the Assembly plan would pass up $350 million in budget savings as the state continues to flirt with deficits. And then an hour later, he changed course again, saying he woudl give the Assembly more time to act.


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