SACRAMENTO – Lawmakers passed a two-months-late budget early Sunday morning and approved a last-minute array of bills ranging from construction defects to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants as the Legislature ended its 2002 session.
The $99 billion budget closed a $23.6 billion deficit through a combination of spending cuts and new revenues — which legislative leaders took great pains to not call new taxes — and required Gov. Gray Davis to make $750 million in cuts from government operations, not programs.
Four Republicans joined 50 Assembly Democrats in voting 54-26 to pass the budget, but that vote was put on hold pending Senate action on a related constitutional amendment proposal on infrastructure spending.
But one long-debated and heavily lobbied issue — limits on companies’ abilities to sell customer’s financial information — died in the session’s final minutes, as its Senate sponsor, Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Daly City, persuaded the Senate to kill a version of her original bill amended by the Assembly earlier in the evening.
The Senate adjourned at 12:26 a.m. Sunday, and the Assembly followed at 1:31 a.m.
Legislators also approved bills Saturday that let insurance companies offer discounts for some customers, but a state Senate committee struck down a bill that aimed to keep Hollywood film projects in California by giving incentives to production companies.
A “right-to-repair” bill under negotiation for nearly a decade was sent to the governor Saturday, after homebuilders and lawyers compromised on ground rules for fixing construction defects in single-family homes and attached condominiums.
The bill by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, gives homebuilders the chance to fix problems before lawsuits are filed. It also lets homeowners sue for problems such as sagging roofs and faulty chimneys before they cause damage instead of after.
Proponents said it will help jump start the condominium construction market and will result in more affordable housing in a state with one of the nation’s lowest homeowner rates.
Legislators hope the measure will keep unhappy home buyers out of court and return insurers to a construction industry they have largely abandoned in the last decade.
The Senate’s 33-6 vote sent the bill to Gov. Gray Davis.
During the afternoon, Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson said he had reached a deal with Assembly Republicans to pass a $99 billion state budget, two months late and just hours before the Legislature was set to end its session.
Four Assembly Republicans supported the budget, giving the majority Democrats the two-thirds majority they needed to pass it. The final vote was 54-26 with Republicans Dick Dickerson, Mike Briggs, David Kelley and Keith Richman joining all 50 Democrats to support it.
The budget features about $2 billion in cuts and directs Davis to cut about $750 million from government operations, not programs, on top of $7 billion in cuts already proposed in May. It would cut 1,000 state jobs by the end of next fiscal year and encourage longtime state employees to retire by sweetening the state retirement package.
The plan also would effectively reduce the minimum amount of money the state must spend on K-12 schools by $700 million.
It also includes a semantically appealing solution to the issue of tax increases: About $2 billion in measures that add new money to the state treasury. Lawmakers have called these “revenue enhancements” to avoid calling them tax increases and appeal to Republicans and their constituents.
But the deal abandons some major tax increase plans put forth by Davis — an increase in the state vehicle license fee back to 1998 levels and an increase on the state excise tax for cigarettes.
Other bills approved by the Senate Saturday included a measure inspired by the recent Enron and WorldCom bankruptcies.
A bill by Assemblyman Kevin Shelley, D-San Francisco, and Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy, would require companies to disclose more information about their directors and officers to the public, including their compensation, stock options and fraud convictions.
It would also force a company to reveal any bankruptcy filings and violations of federal security and state laws, as well as establish a restitution fund to assist victims of corporate fraud.
The Senate also voted 30-0 to approve a bill to let insurance companies discount rates for customers who maintain coverage, even if they switch insurers.
Consumer advocates said it would result in higher costs for previously uninsured motorists, and vowed to sue to overturn the bill if it is signed by the governor.