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Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to impose a 1 percent lumber tax and limit wildfire liability awards cleared the Legislature early today.

Assembly Bill 1492 was sent to the governor's desk when the Assembly concurred in amendments by a vote of 54-20, the bare minimum needed for the required supermajority.

The bill by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, passed on its second attempt in the lower house, at nearly 1:30 a.m. today. It lacked four votes in an earlier roll call. All but one Republican voted no.

Democrats were joined in supporting AB 1492 by two Assembly members who will be termed out of the Legislature in December - Republican Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita and Independent Nathan Fletcher of San Diego.

AB 1492 would require retailers to impose a 1 percent tax on lumber sold in California to raise an estimated $30 million annually that would pay for regulatory oversight, including $1.5 million for the Department of Fish and Games' timber harvest review program.

California timber firms support the tax because it relieves them of regulatory fees they must currently pay - and additional fees that Democrats have long wanted to impose on them to fund state forestry oversight. Shifting the tax to consumers means that wood from outside California would also face the new 1 percent charge.

Environmentalists generally like the fact that money would be raised for regulating the industry but are concerned about other provisions that reduce the frequency of environmental reviews and limit how much landowners would pay if they spark wildfires.


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