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Could California Legislature Take Lame-Duck Vote On Gas Taxes?


California lawmakers are back at the state Capitol for their final scheduled month of work this year. They’re scheduled to adjourn by midnight on Aug. 31. But at least one major issue could stretch into a rare lame-duck session.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants the Legislature to streamline the process that local governments use to approve new housing developments. He’s offering $400 million for affordable housing if lawmakers agree to allow multi-family, urban, infill developments to move forward more quickly.

Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes calls Brown’s proposal a “good-faith effort” at addressing California’s high cost of living.

“I want to make sure that there’s local control,“ Mayes told Capital Public Radio Monday, referring to concerns that city councils and county boards of supervisors might be cut out of the decision-making process for certain projects. “That makes it a little bit difficult. But I think it’s worth the conversation.”

But many Democrats are skeptical.

“I think it needs work,“ says Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “I have grave concerns about the proposal as it is,” pointing to potential impacts on worker protections and the environment.

Brown is also talking with the oil industry about a way to extend California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals beyond 2020, when the state’s landmark climate change law sunsets.

“We will not meet our world-leading clean air and emission reduction targets unless we solidify and redouble our commitment to the state’s cap and trade program and climate goals beyond 2020, says the governor's deputy press secretary, Deborah Hoffman, and we will work hard to get that done.

And there’s talk in both parties about a transportation funding deal – a mix of new and existing revenues to begin addressing the deferred maintenance on state and local highways and roads estimated at well over $100 billion over 10 years.

Speaker Rendon says he’s not sure any of those big-ticket items will get done this month. But he acknowledged he’s heard talk of lawmakers returning to the Capitol after the November election (but before the Legislature's official adjournment on Nov. 30th) for a lame-duck vote on transportation.

“I’m open to it,“ Rendon told Capital Public Radio when asked about the rumor Monday. “That’s not ‘the plan’ right now, but certainly, that’s something I’ve heard of and something that if need be I’d be supportive of.”

So would some Republicans – but not all.

Mayes, who's shown a willingness to negotiate deals with Democrats throughout his first year as Assembly Republican Leader, says it would be a “shame” if lawmakers raised gas taxes or vehicle fees in a lame-duck session.

And besides, Mayes says, “the Democrats today are only talking about new revenue without a fix on how to make the system better. And so we’re still a long way to go.”

Asked about a lame-duck transportation vote, Brown press secretary Evan Westrup said “we continue to look for openings to get this done.“


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