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State's GOP senators lift blockade to pass domestic violence, local funding bills

Squabbles -- both between and within the parties -- were set aside Wednesday as senators unanimously voted to restore domestic violence funding and make it easier for localities to borrow money.

October 15, 2009|Patrick McGreevy

SACRAMENTO — Setting aside political squabbles, Senate Republicans lifted their blockade on several budget bills Wednesday, voting with Democrats to approve measures that restore funding cut from domestic violence shelters and help cities and counties borrow money to balance their budgets.

Republican lawmakers had refused last month to help muster the necessary two-thirds vote for two dozen pieces of legislation in a dispute over unrelated matters.

"We've resolved the issues and we're moving forward," Senate minority leader Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta said after Wednesday's vote.

Lawmakers said they hope to carry the new bipartisanship into negotiations over a plan to upgrade California's water system. The Senate on Wednesday gaveled in special sessions on water and tax reform.

Senators voted unanimously to approve a measure restoring $16 million cut from the budget for 94 domestic violence shelters, forcing half a dozen shelters to close and others to reduce their services.

"We have put more families at risk," Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) said of the cuts. "When shelters close down, lives are at stake."

The spat between the two parties was not the only one that affected SB3X 13. The Democratic leadership stripped Yee's authorship of the bill in a pique after Yee dissented from the Democratic majority on other budget bills.

Yee said he was putting aside his frustration with having his name removed, but complained on the Senate floor about a lack of tolerance of dissent.

"We're not in the Stone Age. We don't beat people down," Yee said.

The dispute between Republicans and Democrats centered on Hollingsworth's claim that Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) reneged on a promise of action last month on several Republican priorities, including a proposal to scrap ReadyReturn, the state tax-filing assistance program.

Steinberg has refused to allow a vote on the proposal, which would benefit Intuit, the company that makes TurboTax. Hollingsworth said that matter is unresolved but the bills acted on Wednesday were important to GOP members.

The Senate vote also was unanimous on a measure to make it easier for cities and counties to borrow against future funding from the state to plug budget holes created when the state took $1.9 billion from local coffers this summer.

The state has three years to repay the $1.9 billion, and SB 67 allows cities and counties to borrow tax-free against that repayment to reduce budget shortfalls now, saving them about $200 million in financing costs.

"This will help all of the local government agencies to weather the recession in a positive way," said Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego), the Senate's budget chairwoman.

Lawmakers on Wednesday also agreed to exempt a downtown Los Angeles nightclub built by billionaire Philip Anschutz from a state ban on liquor ads inside some clubs.

The Senate voted 30 to 3 to exempt Club Nokia from a state law that prohibits advertising of brands being sold at the club.

"At a time when we have the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, this bill will help bring more jobs, more people back to work in the city of Los Angeles," said Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks). The bill, AB 813, was written by Assemblyman John Perez (D-Los Angeles).

The club is part of the LA Live entertainment district near Staples Center.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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