"We Will Not Be Rushed"

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That was the sentiment this morning from the President pro Tempore of the California Senate, universally known as a nice guy but perhaps ready to make sure that no one equates nice guy with pushover.

Implicit in that comment from Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is that Governor Schwarzenegger's public prodding on a number of pending issues won't help; one wonders, too, how it will affect the work in private, beginning with this afternoon's 'Big 5' leadership meeting.

Sen. pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (Aug. 18, 2009)The assertion of legislative prerogative came in Steinberg's chat with the Capitol press corps today, when a reporter asked about Schwarzenegger's letter sent this morning to both Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass on water reform. In it, the governor said that there has been so much debate through the years that any remaining differences on the issue could be resolved "in an hour."

"You know, the governor is very fond of making those sorts of statements," Steinberg quickly replied. "They really show, I think, a lack of knowledge about how the legislative process really works."

And from there, the Democrat from Sacramento seemed to latch on to a theme for the rest of the Q&A -- whether it be on water issues or reform of the state's tax system or the budget process: the Legislature, he said, sets the legislative priorities and timetable... not the chief executive.

You can't help but surmise that Steinberg's feelings are colored by the dispute that turned into a legal battle dubbed Steinberg v. Schwarzenegger, a lawsuit filed by the pro Tem almost two weeks ago alleging that the governor's $489 milllion in vetoes are unconstitutional.

Schwarzenegger's impatience with the pace of the legislative process is well chronicled, even (or make that especially) in the early years.

But whether two of the issues get resolved soon -- water and tax reform -- is anybody's guess. On the latter, Steinberg today left on the table the very real chance that reform of the tax system is not on the near horizon.

"I'm not committing to any sort of timetable," said the pro Tem when asked whether he'd put the eventual recommendations of the bipartisan tax reform commmission to an up-or-down vote before year's end.

Steinberg said major reworkings of tax policy will happen when the plan -- some plan -- is ready. And he said that could mean legislative modifications to whatever recommendations the commission makes next month.

The governor has said he intends to convene a special session of the Legislature to consider those recommendations, thereby extending legislative activity beyond the adjournment of regular session for the year on September 11. But just because the Guv calls a special session, he doesn't set the timetable for debate or action -- which, again, the pro Tem pointed out this morning.

"I got, I think, an A-minus in constitutional law in law school," said Steinberg. "We are a coequal branch of government. We will decide whether to, and when to, put up any matter for a vote."

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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