Lawmakers could take up a measure Monday to pull a controversial $11.1 billion water bond from November's ballot and instead put it before voters two years from now.
The delay requires two-thirds approval by both chambers, and lawmakers are faced with a 5 p.m. Monday deadline before the Secretary of State is scheduled to send ballot pamphlets to the printer.
However, that deadline could be missed and it is possible that the full Senate may not vote on the delay until later in the week, according to Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
Critics said the bill, which faces a skeptical electorate, should be put to voters this year.
"Legislators should do what's right for California and vote down this attempt to delay the measure — not try to hoodwink voters by postponing it for two years," said Jim Metropulos of Sierra Club California.
The bond, which contains $3 billion for new water storage and money for grants to water agencies, land conservancies and others, was included, at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's insistence, as part of a major package of water reforms passed last fall.
But faced with flagging poll numbers -- a recent Field Poll found just 42 percent of voters in favor -- and organized opposition, the governor in late June asked lawmakers to pull the measure and reschedule it for November 2012.
On Friday, legislation was introduced by Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, and Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, to move the measure to 2012 and delete one of the most controversial provisions in the water bond -- one that would allow private companies to get bond funding through joint powers authorities to build water storage facilities.
Critics said that provision opened the door for abuses such as those detailed in a Bay Area News Group investigation last year that showed how a private company, through a joint powers authority, sold water from the Kern Water Bank to taxpayer-financed environmental protection program at prices far higher than the company paid.
A separate bill introduced Friday would ensure that Schwarzenegger's appointees to a commission charged with deciding how to spend the $3 billion for water storage would serve full four-year terms instead of the shorter, staggered terms approved last year.
Mike Taugher covers the environment. Contact him at 925-943-8257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.