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After failing to win votes for tax hikes this legislative session, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he's focused on helping Democrats win a supermajority of his house this fall.

Democrats gave up on seeking GOP votes for taxes during June budget talks, instead asking voters to raise the statewide sales tax and income taxes on wealthy earners in a November initiative. Only one high-profile tax measure passed his house last week - a 1 percent charge on lumber - while other proposals to extend motorist fees and change corporate tax formulas for out-of-state firms died on the final night.

Steinberg said he has focused on strategizing and raising money to hold as many as 29 Democratic seats in the 40-member state Senate. Steinberg made a point of saying he stayed home from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. to work on the fall campaigns.

A two-thirds majority would enable Senate Democrats to pass tax measures and urgency proposals without Republican support, though Democrats are expected to fall short of supermajority control in the Assembly.

"I said at the very beginning of this year, for me anyway, I was going to try and stay away from as many two-thirds measures as possible because you don't control your own destiny," Steinberg said. "And I think that was reaffirmed again this year. I also think it reinforces why I didn't go to the Democratic convention. I'm spending my time raising money and doing what I have to do to get to two-thirds."

Nonetheless, Steinberg praised the just-concluded legislative session as "the most substantively productive session" despite what he described as the usual "messiness" of last-minute deal making.

He pointed to bills on workers' compensation, pensions, high-speed rail and disability-related litigants as successes for the year. He also said proposals to de-emphasize standardized tests and require electronic textbooks would improve education. And he said "we have furthered the opportunity agenda by ensuring that the dreamers have the opportunity to gain driver's licenses," a reference to legislation helping some undocumented immigrants.


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