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Steinberg Ties Mental Health Spending to Prison Capacity Vote

CPR file photo/Andrew Nixon

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento)

CPR file photo/Andrew Nixon

The courts have told Governor Jerry Brown’s administration to release nearly 10,000 prisoners by the end of the year.  Corrections officials say that would be a serious threat to public safety, so they’re looking at temporarily housing inmates in county jails and private and out-of-state facilities.  That’s expensive – and would require legislative approval.  Senate President Darrell Steinberg acknowledges the state may have no better choice, but says it doesn’t solve the long-term problem.

“So if the court is going to force us to spend limited public dollars on additional jail capacity, there must be a comparable commitment to investing in mental health and substance abuse treatment to keep people out,” he told reporters in his Capitol office Wednesday.

Steinberg says those programs would help reduce the state’s 75 percent recidivism rate for felons – and that’s how California must reduce its prison population in the long term.

Steinberg, Pérez: Delta Tunnel Project Needs Legislative Buy-In

California legislative leaders are pushing back against the contention of Governor Jerry Brown’s administration that its Delta tunnels proposal doesn’t need lawmaker approval.

“I don’t know whether he needs it legally, but I think he needs it politically and other ways,” says Steinberg.  He told reporters that without a “breakthrough” on the tunnel project, a new water bond measure would likely not pass the legislature.  There’s general agreement that the current $11 billion bond set for the November 2014 ballot is too large to win voter approval.

Assembly Speaker John Pérez expressed a similar skepticism toward the administration’s argument earlier this week.
Steinberg says setting caps on how much water would flow through the tunnels each year to Central and Southern California could pave the way for a deal.
The Sacramento Democrat also says that while he sympathizes with the concerns of Delta residents who fear the tunnels would shatter their quality of life, the project is necessary to meet the water needs of the entire state.


Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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