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Some lawmakers missing from key water vote

November 4, 2009 |  5:49 pm

State lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spent much of Wednesday patting themselves on the backs for passing a "historic" package of legislation to overhaul the state’s water system. But some lawmakers had more pressing concerns. Like a Mediterranean cruise.

While her colleagues toiled until dawn, Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach) was on a European cruise with her husband. She received permission for the absence from Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), according to Ray Sotero, Oropeza’s chief of staff. “It was a nonrefundable trip,” Sotero said.

Two Republican state senators, George Runner of Lancaster and Sam Aanestad of Grass Valley, also were missing. Their offices refused to reveal their whereabouts.

Runner, who regularly chastises Democrats for failing to follow protocol on the Senate floor, was at a “previously planned engagement with family,“ said Will Smith, his chief of staff. Aanestad was on a “longtime scheduled” personal trip, said Mark Reeder, his top aide.

The three lawmakers declined their per diem, the tax-free daily stipend given to lawmakers on work days, during their absences, their representatives said.

A fourth lawmaker, Assemblyman Chuck Calderon (D-Montebello), had an excused absence and was home sick, according to his spokesman, Tom White.

-- Shane Goldmacher, reporting from Sacramento