A last-minute proposal to limit initiatives and referendums to the November general election ballot is in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown.
Senate Bill 202, which would shift any future ballot measures that qualify for next June to November 2012, cleared both houses as the Legislature prepared to adjourn for the year, passing the Senate by a vote of 23-15 in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The measure's language was introduced Friday -- the final scheduled day of session -- as an amendment to an existing bill.
Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock, who authored the measure, said putting initiatives in front of the people in the elections that generally see higher turnout is "good government."
"Low turnout elections do not represent the needs, priorities and desires of the larger electorate," the Berkeley Democrat said, noting that 75 percent of states with an initiative process limit measures to the November ballot.
The bill, which would not affect two initiatives related to term limits and tobacco taxes that have already qualified for June 2012, would also bump a rainy day fund measure approved as part of the 2010 budget - ACA 4 - from the next primary ballot to November 2014.
Republicans blasted the bill as an eleventh-hour effort by Democrats to aid their labor union allies, whose political efforts typically benefit from higher voter turnout in the blue state. They also complained that the majority Democrats were going back on an earlier budget agreement to put ACA 4 in front of voters in 2012.
The upper house also rejected a last-minute push to reauthorize an energy surcharge touted by Brown as a tool to promote job creation.
The 1.5 percent tax on power bills, known as the Public Goods Charge, generates more than $400 million a year and is used to fund energy efficiency efforts, renewable energy projects and research and development. The Democratic governor had characterized the investments as an opportunity to spark "green" job creation.
But the measure, contained in two bills, fell far short of passage late as the Legislature's final scheduled day of session stretched into the early morning hours Saturday. Assembly Bill 724, the only part of the package to come up for a floor vote, only received 20 of the 27 votes needed to clear the upper house.
Catch up on all The Bee's coverage from the last night of session here.