Legislation that would shift an $11 billion water bond from the November ballot to 2014 cleared the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee Monday on a bipartisan, 5-0 vote.
The measure, Assembly Bill 1422 by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, won support from virtually every stakeholder in the state's notoriously fractious water issue.
If passed, it would be the second time that the measure had been delayed and would indirectly help Gov. Jerry Brown win voter approval of his sales and income tax measure in November. Brown has called for delay and changes in the water bond, fearing that its size would make voters less likely to approve taxes.
Brown has already signed legislation that would move his measure, a constitutional amendment, to near the top of November's ballot, just behind bond issues, and if AB 1422 is enacted, the tax measure then would top the ballot. However, Molly Munger, who's sponsoring a rival income tax measure, has sued, claiming that legislators and Brown are manipulating the election process. A Sacramento judge last week issued an order to temporarily block the numbering of ballot measures pending further hearings.
One issue in the lawsuit is whether Brown and the Legislature could change the order of ballot measures via a so-called "trailer bill" to the state budget. Munger alleges that it has no connection to the budget and therefore is invalid.
Legislative leaders had ordered up two versions of the Perea water bond delay, one another trailer bill that would take only a simple majority vote and AB 1422, which is an "urgency bill" requiring a two-thirds legislative vote and therefore support of at least a few Republicans.
They are going with AB 1422, at least so far, and Republicans signaled with their committee votes Monday that they are supportive, thereby avoiding another legal clash over whether a trailer bill could be used to move the water bond.
The committee's unanimous vote came after it rejected a motion by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, to repeal the bond issue altogether. She said it's too big and ignores vital aspects of the water situation while providing many millions of dollars for pork barrel projects unconnected to water.