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Legislative session ends with shouting, finger-pointing

September 1, 2010 | 12:56 am

It was an ugly ending. Lawmakers closed out their lackluster two-year legislative session by shouting, pointing fingers and casting votes on a bill that was written out of public view in the middle of the night.

The proposal, AB 1012, seemed to suddenly emerge into bill form out of nowhere and was rushed through an Assembly vote and into the Senate. It promised to be a boon to certain green power companies, allowing them to bypass environmental restrictions when building plants. Or at least that was the buzz in the Capitol hallways. It was such a rush job that the average bystander had no way of knowing what was in the thing.

But it was clear that GOP lawmakers did not like it when it came up for a vote minutes before the midnight deadline for moving legislation to the governor's desk. "Point of order," they shouted. They demanded to see a bill analysis. Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who was presiding over the Senate, informed them such an analysis was popping on their computer screens that very moment. Not that anyone was given time to read it. She ordered the clerk to immediately call the roll.

More shouts of protest from GOP lawmakers. Romero ignored them and directed the clerk to keep the vote open. The votes weren't there. The clock struck midnight. GOP lawmakers demanded the roll call cease –- the session was technically over, they cried. Romero kept the roll open. For minutes. More Democratic votes slowly trickled in, supporting the bill. By four minutes past midnight, the bill was just one vote short of passage. Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) was speechifying from the floor "we are a house of rules," demanding the roll call be stopped as Romero spoke over him on her microphone, ordering the clerk to keep the roll call going.

"We do not interrupt a roll call," she said sternly. The chaos finally subsided at 12:04 a.m. The roll call was stopped. The bill fell short.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg did his best to make light of the situation. "It obviously gets a little tense here as the clock approaches midnight," he said.

-- Evan Halper in Sacramento