In a concerted effort to aid California's drought-stricken communities, the Legislature on Thursday sped a $687 million relief package to Gov. Jerry Brown.
One week after Brown and legislative leaders unveiled the emergency legislation, both houses of the Legislature approved the bill with little resistance. The Assembly passed the bill 65-0, and the Senate sent it to Brown's desk with only three dissenting votes.
Relying largely on unspent bond money, the measure sets aside more than $500 million to quench the thirst of afflicted communities with infrastructure projects like capturing storm water and distributing recycled water.
It also sets aside millions for drinking water in communities at risk of running out and allocates food and housing aid for Californians, like those in the agricultural industry, who have seen their livelihoods damaged by diminished water supplies.
In the Assembly, Republicans used the opportunity to call for more storage capacity, an issue being debated via a set of water bond proposals. But they agreed with their Democratic colleagues that the emergency water package marked a needed intermediate step.
"This is part of the puzzle, part of the solution for the entire state," said Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield.
Things went a little less smoothly in the Senate, where the water debate occurred against the backdrop of Republicans seeking to expel a state senator who has been convicted on eight felony charges stemming from lying about his residence. Senate Democrats rebuffed that attempt, preserving a status quo that has seen Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, accept a paid leave of absence.