Capitol Alert

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Both houses of the California Legislature passed the main budget bill today and have now solved roughly half of the state's $26.6 billion deficit, mostly through cuts and taking funds from special state accounts. But nobody's celebrating yet.

The Legislature has left unsettled two of the thorniest issues in Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal -- the elimination of redevelopment agencies and a special election asking voters to extend higher taxes on sales, income and vehicles.

Without those changes, the Legislature will have to cut deeper or find new pots of money other than taxes. So far, Brown and Democrats remain focused on finding enough GOP votes to place taxes on the ballot.

Thursday didn't provide much hope for an immediate bipartisan solution. Tempers flared in both houses Thursday, and the partisan divide was as evident as ever.

Democrats amended various budget bills to require only a majority vote, using powers granted to them by voters in last year's Proposition 25. That led to party-line votes throughout the day.

Meanwhile, debates in both houses led to Republicans asking for apologies from Democrats. In the Senate, rhetoric overheated during debate on a bill redirecting inmates from state prisons to local jails and shifting parole functions to local governments.

Two Republicans, Sens. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, and Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, encouraged Californians to get a dog, a gun and an alarm system so as to protect themselves. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, responded, "The party of 'no' is also the party of fearmongering."

That prompted Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, to ask for a formal apology on the floor of the Senate, which was granted by Leno -- for those who felt offended.

Lawmakers have a brief respite to calm down; they do not plan to meet again until Monday.


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