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Leaders to tinker with legislative schedule - but disagree on breaking early summer

Every year lawmakers and Capitol staff cling to the pipe dream that they will somehow finish all their work and head off to winter recess early.

Only this year it isn't a dream, it's a necessity, say some Jewish lawmakers.

That's because the schedule-makers set the final two days of the legislative year - often the busiest days - on Rosh Hashanah, one of the two holiest Jewish holiday of the year. It's a holiday during which many religious Jews do not attend work.

"It's not just members that are affected," said Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, who sent a letter to the legislative leadership asking them to address the scheduling snafu. "It's all members of the public who are Jewish and want to participate in the political process."

Both Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata have agreed to finish business by the final Wednesday, September 12, before Rosh Hashanah.

"There's no question that we will do everything to allow those who want to observe those holidays," said Dan Eaton, chief of staff to Nunez, who is currently in charge of managing the calendar for the Assembly. "The legislative calendar will not interfere with the observance of these holy days."

"My wife would kill me if I didn't," he added.

Eaton said members may be forced to hold floor session on Fridays leading up to the end of session - and perhaps even on a weekend - to fit the updated legislative calendar.

"We're committed to wrapping up session before the Jewish holidays," agreed Andrew LaMar, communications director for Perata.

Sen. Darrell Steinberg, a Jewish Sacramento Democrat, was thankful the leadership would let him celebrate Rosh Hashanah, a "very important, very significant holiday in the Jewish calendar."

"It's the right thing to do, the respectful thing to do," Steinberg said. "We'll be that much more efficient in getting our work done."

But the two Democratic leaders haven't agreed on their summer break plans. Currently, the Legislature is scheduled to be on recess from July 21 until August 20.

The Assembly is floating a plan - assuming the budget is finalized - to head out of the heat of Sacramento by Friday, July 13, a week early.

There is currently only a single select committee scheduled to meet the last week before break in either the Senate or Assembly.

"I think there's no question if a budget is completed we'll leave early," said Eaton.

Not so fast says Perata's office.

"There's no agreement on our end," said LaMar. "We plan to work up until the first scheduled day of summer recess."