Capitol Alert

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Public employee unions never liked former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to ask voters to create a "rainy day fund" that would give the state a stronger reserve.

Today, on the last day of the legislative session, they showed up in force to urge lawmakers to unravel Schwarzenegger's plan to put the question to voters next year.

Lobbyists for the state's largest public employee unions -- representing nurses, teachers, state workers and others -- made their case during the first public hearing on a bill that was written late last night and may run through the entire law-making process in less than 24 hours.

Senate Bill 202, by Democrat Loni Hancock of Berkeley, received a 13-minute hearing of the Assembly Elections Committee today, held during the lower house's lunch break and announced with less than two hours' notice.

It would do two things unions want: Delay a public vote on creating a rainy day fund until 2014, and require that all citizen-driven initiatives go on the ballot during a general election (not the soonest election, as is now the practice).

Hancock argued the bill amounted to "good government" by moving elections on initiatives to a time when more voters show up at the polls. Public employee unions saw another benefit in the bill: not tying up any state money right now.

Delaying a vote on the rainy day fund will "provide an opportunity for schools to be paid back the enormous amount of money the state owes them," said Toni Trigueiro, a lobbyist for the California Teachers Association.

Three people spoke against the bill: representatives for manufacturers, food packers and radio and television broadcasters. Broadcasters stand to lose money from political advertising if initiatives are all moved to the November ballot.

Stan Statham, president of the California Broadcasters Association, criticized the last-minute nature of the bill, saying it was a "cram-and-jam" effort by the Legislature.

"The world doesn't know about this bill," Statham said. "This is a law people don't know about until it becomes law."



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