Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Delta tunnel critics put project to votes

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman D-Stockton speaks, on the north steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento in opposition of the state’s proposed Delta tunnel project on Friday, October 30, 2015.
Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman D-Stockton speaks, on the north steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento in opposition of the state’s proposed Delta tunnel project on Friday, October 30, 2015. rbenton@sacbee.com

For all the plaudits Gov. Jerry Brown gets from Democrats these days, there are still two big things dividing him from numerous members of his party: the Delta tunnels.

To his critics, the governor has become synonymous with the $15 billion project to build two massive tunnels for shipping water south. Its capacity to wreak political turmoil is seemingly endless. Powerful water agencies are fighting to shape the administrative process, a ballot initiative could imperil the financing, and a southern California water agency’s Delta land deal has tunnel opponents, who see it as a way to grease the project, on high alert.

Today a pair of Democratic lawmakers from the region of peak tunnel distrust will put up bills intended to pump the brakes. Going up in the Assembly Water, Parks, And Wildlife Committee at 1:30 p.m. are Assembly Bill 1713, which would mandate heretofore unnecessary voter approval, and Assembly Bill 2583, which would put some new hurdles in front of the project, like tougher financing and environmental rules, before it can proceed.

The support and opposition list for the two bills illustrates the tunnels debate. In favor are environmental groups and Delta area governments, with officials in San Joaquin County, Contra Costa County and Sacramento County backing a public vote. Hoping to defeat the bills are major southern California water agencies and formidable statewide business and labor groups that have backed the tunnels.

BILLS DUE: There are numerous other bills of interest on the agenda today, so we’ll highlight a few lightning-round style. Legislation barring Israel-boycotting businesses from winning state contracts goes up in the Assembly Judiciary Committee at 9 a.m., along with a bill to make cop body camera footage publicly available. At 1:30 p.m. the Assembly Health Committee will hear healthcare union-backed legislation to publicize the pay of hospital executives. In the Senate Public Safety Committee at 9 a.m. we have several gun control bills, including measures to regulate ammunition and ban high-capacity magazines, and the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee will host round two for contentious legislation that could mean price regulation for Uber and Lyft.

CANCELED: Not getting a vote today, though, will be a joint resolution calling on Congress to fund a domestic violence prevention bill. Assembly Joint Resolution 31 was pulled from the Assembly Public Safety Committee agenda by its author, Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-Baldwin Park, who last week was blocked from seeing his wife via a restraining order that alleged he acted violently toward her.

DOWN TO BUSINESS: California State Treasurer and perpetual potential candidate John Chiang will be talking to the National Federation of Independent Business’s California chapter as the group gathers at the Sacramento Convention Center this afternoon following morning visits for their lobby day. Business folks will also be treated to a legislative panel featuring Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, and Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, who hail from different parties but have been on the same page of issues like banning public transit strikes, helping them both earn business support.

CROWDED LOBBY: And in case you needed a reminder of just how many interests bend the ears of elected officials, a couple more are holding their lobby days: the Western Propane Gas Association, which spent $60,000 on lobbying last year, will be conducting office visits and displaying propane equipment and vehicles on the south lawn. Members of the California Catholic Conference, which unsuccessfully fought legislation allowing terminally ill Californians to take their lives, will gather at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament before meeting with legislators to back anti-human trafficking legislation and to oppose an assisted death hotline and a budget measure to have Medi-Cal cover aid-in-dying drugs.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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