Schwarzenegger calls session to discuss water deal

October 12, 2009 6:58:14 AM PDT
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders plan a seventh straight day of water negotiations Monday, as the governor summoned lawmakers for a special session on the state's water problems.

Talks on how to address the state's deteriorating and inadequate water system ended late Sunday after nearly 12 hours, though leaders said they moved closer to a deal.

"Over the past few days we have made enough progress in our negotiations that I am calling a special session on water," Schwarzenegger said in a statement late Sunday.

He acknowledged that "we still have a few remaining issues to work out," while the leaders said substantial issues remain - including the amount of a water bond to pay for improving the state's inadequate and outdated water storage and conveyance system.

Democratic leaders presented their proposal and answers to concerns that Republicans had been raising for weeks, said Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo.

"I think there is evidence now that we are moving in the right direction," Blakeslee said.

Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula, said the same dozen or so issues have been dividing the four leaders and the governor for days: water conservation and balancing water rights with monitoring how property owners pump groundwater. They barely had time Sunday to discuss how to pay for water system improvements.

"We've got a proposal now that we're going to take back and take a look at. I think it moves both sides closer together," Hollingsworth said.

Democratic leaders said they hope to be able to present a water proposal to rank-and-file legislators this week, and perhaps hold public hearings on a water package before week's end. Passing a water deal that includes a bond needs a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, requiring at least some support from Republicans.

Lawmakers are returning to Sacramento to complete other unfinished business, making Schwarzenegger's call for another special session largely symbolic. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg welcomed the move.

"I think it again signifies the importance of the issue," said Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

He and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said negotiators made significant progress Sunday.

The governor is pushing for more reservoirs and a controversial canal to improve a water storage and conveyance system mostly built in the 1960s.

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