Two bills were amended Thursday in the Senate to push Proposition 18, currently slated for the Nov. 2 election, to the election on Nov. 6, 2012.
Assembly Bill 1265, by Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, and Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, delays the water bond vote. A second bill, AB 1260, by Assemblywoman Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, would delay the terms for appointees to the California Water Commission, the body tasked with allocating some of the bond's funds.
The "Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010," placed on the ballot by legislators as part of the 2009 package of water policy bills, would fund water projects across the state, including water storage, recycling and drought relief.
But with a crowded ballot and a down economy jeopardizing its passage, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other key water bond supporters called in June to delay the vote.
"After reviewing the agenda for this year, I believe our focus should be on the budget -- solving the deficit, reforming out of control pension costs and fixing our broken budget system," Schwarzenegger in a June statement. "It's critical that the water bond pass, as it will improve California's economic growth, environmental sustainability and water supply for future generations."
Critics, who say the bond proposal is poorly drafted and filled with unnecessary spending that would sink the state further in debt, want the bond scrapped and rewritten or kept on the ballot in hopes that it is rejected by voters. Those concerns, which some legislators share, could make it difficult for the bills to get the necessary two-thirds vote.
Proposition 18 opponents immediately called on lawmakers to reject the legislation.
"A vote for A.B. 1265 is a vote for the water bond," Jim Metropulos of the Sierra Club California said in a statement. "Legislators should do what's right for California and vote down this attempt to delay the measure - not try to hoodwink voters by postponing it for two years."
Though the official deadline for adding or removing propositions to the November ballot was in June, the Legislature can still change the bond placement with a two-thirds vote.
Lawmakers are now facing a dwindling window to act on the delay, as deadlines approach for printing ballots and other election materials.
Monday is the deadline for making changes to the state's official Voter Information Guide, which is mailed to 10 million voter households across the state. The guide includes summaries, fiscal analysis and arguments for and against each measure on the ballot. Counties start printing ballots in late August; exact dates depend on the number of registered voters and how many districts are in the county.
A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen said the office can't hold off on sending the ballot pamphlet to the printer because it takes weeks to produce and send out the copies. Lawmakers can opt to issue a supplemental guide at a significant cost.
It is unclear whether the legislation will be scheduled for a vote Monday, but Steinberg spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the Senate is hoping to act on the legislation "sooner rather than later."
This post was updated at 1 p.m. with a quote from the bond opponents.
PHOTO CREDIT: Walkers cross paths July 22, 2009, on the Oroville Dam, the state's second-largest reservoir. Sacramento Bee/ José Luis Villegas