Is it possible that my fellow podcasting reporter has stumbled upon a solution to the state budget impasse? [Update: No, he hasn't. See below.]
This special Monday edition of the Capital Notes Podcast is all things Budget Weekend Marathon.
Yes, Capitol Weekly's editor Anthony York thinks there may be a way around getting 27 votes for the budget in the state Senate... and it's quite a tease to say that and then the subject not show up until about 22 minutes into our musings. Sure, skip ahead... but then scroll back and listen to the rest.
[update 12:59pm - This is why journalists don't run the world. Article IV of the state constitution also says that "membership" in the Senate is 40. And so it goes on. --JM]
And a reminder that if you'd like to follow today's budget actions via my Twitter experiment, it will be here.
Well, get ready for Budget Drama Day Three.
With the necessary votes still elusive, the Senate adjourned tonight without acting on the full $42 billion deficit proposal that has been debated in public, and private, for more than 24 hours straight.
Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, in an emotional speech before adjournment, implored Republican senators to "deviate just a little" from their "mantra of 'no new revenue.'"
Steinberg's pointed floor remarks, responding to criticism of the process by Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley).
With only Senate GOP Leader Dave Cogdill voting this weekend to approve crucial parts of the budget deal, the package of bills sat in limbo all day and night Saturday and Sunday in search of two more GOP votes in the Senate. It's widely believed the package has the needed three GOP votes in the Assembly.
Three names have dominated the discussion for those last two votes: Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield), Sen. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks), and Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria).
With Ashburn largely considered a safe vote, that left one more. But when Cox emphatically told reporters in the wee hours today that he wasn't voting for the plan, the buzz and private lobbying turned to Maldonado.
(Even an unusual online plea from Sacramento's editorial writers couldn't sway Cox.)
And thus began an elaborate courtship of the Central Coast agricultural scion, including a long private meeting with Governor Schwarzenegger that "Maldo" described to reporters as cordial.
Maldonado's relationship with the governor was also mentioned more than once; the senator carried important legislation for Schwarzenegger in the past... but may not have gotten what he wanted when it came to other political aspirations.
The Capitol guessing game all day has been this: what does Maldonado want? As of tonight, one might suppose that game goes on.
Tonight's failure to launch means that the entire 27 bill package must begin its legislatie journey anew; apparently, legislative rules dictate that adjournment without completion meant that the bills already dealt with effectively had their votes wiped out. This means it's going to be another very long day... with nerves already frayed... and the state's finances still teetering. The stakes only seem to be getting higher.
"The answer is no."
Those were the words of Sen. Dave Cox, a Republican from the Sacramento suburbs who was widely believed to be the decisive third GOP vote for the $40 billion budget proposal.
But at 3:30 a.m. this morning, the veteran lawmaker was resolute, even after meeting with Governor Schwarzenegger and others throughout the night. In a way, he symbolized the general GOP consensus on the mammoth spending cuts and tax increase package: no thanks.
That being said, the minimum Republican votes were apparently lined up in the Assembly and ready to go. But when things failed to gel in the Senate, the lower house's budget debate came to a halt.
The package of bills included a few items not related to the budget at all, including a last-minute gift to rental car companies -- passing along a portion of each car's annual vehicle license fee to renters. More on that to come in another posting. But none of the package is headed anywhere until the tax proposals are approved. And that means a third GOP Senate vote; the early tally was 26-12, with Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersefield), a possible second vote behind Senate GOP Leader Dave Cogdill, abstaining.
So now what? Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg doesn't seem ready to throw in the towel. And with Cox uninterested in being vote number 27 (that being the two thirds needed in the Senate), the attention turned, albeit briefly, to Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), who broke ranks for a budget vote in 2007 -- even though Maldo has already publicly said he isn't interested.
The sun will be coming up soon. As Scarlett O'Hara once said, "Tomorrow's another day."
(By the way, thanks to all who followed the Twitter escapade last night. It may be picked back up, depending on events.)
Now that we've all enjoyed a truncated Valentine's Day (and let's face it, who needed more chocolate?), it's time to turn our attention to Satuday night at the fights... er, the debate and expected vote on a $40 billion budget deficit fix.
With that, some odds and ends worth knowing before the fists start flying:
I admit I've been reluctant to enter the TwitterWorld, if for no other reason than it's just one more step towards full non-contemplative analysis and writing.
But for tonight's budget debate/vote/saga, it's worth a try. If it turns out to not be too terribly annoying, we'll build it in to the CN blog sometime soon. For tonight, though, follow along through Twitter by clicking here.
With budget deliberations and machinations still far from over, we're holding our podcast punditry until next week. Might as well see where the chips fall first, eh?
More budget news to come, probably this weekend.
Will all those who are happy with the Legislature, its handling of the state's $40 billion budget hole, and the way it's communicating about what happens next please stand up?
I don't see anyone... and that's not just because I'm staring at a computer screen.
It's now been more than 24 hours since the buzzing began over a budget deal, and the slings and arrows are coming from all corners at the elected officials who hang their hats under the Capitol dome.
It may be raining buckets outside in Sacramento this afternoon, but there's still only a trickle of solid information about the big buzz of the moment -- that a budget deficit solution may soon be in place.
And that's where you, CN readers, come in. But more on that in a sec.
"You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today."
One more, you say? How about this one from the current top guy, 44, spoken a couple of weeks before he took office last month.
"Our problem is not just a deficit of dollars," said President Barack Obama. "It's a deficit of accountability and a deficit of trust."
Both quotes seem worth pondering as just about every observer of California politics and public policy waits for some kind of compromise agreement on the state's massive $40 billion budget shortfall.
It may not be the next step in the process, but you could place a safe bet that the wheels are now in motion for the state of California to ultimately ask the Supreme Court of the United States to stop a federal court from ordering a major release of inmates from the state's prisons.
This afternoon, a panel of three federal judges issued a tentative ruling that orders California to release tens of thousands of prisoners to relieve overcrowding conditions inside the state's 37 prisons.
Saying he and the governor "strongly disagree with the ruling," corrections secretary Matt Cate told reporters this afternoon the state will take its case to the nation's highest court, if needed.
The ruling "would result in the release of between 37,000 and 58,000 inmates onto the California streets," said Cate. "We believe it poses a significant threat to public safety." Prison officials put the current total prison population at about 170,000.
The timing, while undoubtedly coincidental, can't help but be noticed in light of budget negotiations. Talks to resolve a $40 billion deficit are still ongoing, but are believed to be coming to a close.
One wonders how this news might add to the sense that California is tumbling over the cliff... and therefore help instill a sense of urgency in lawmakers and Governor Schwarzenegger.