Beginning of Session for California Legislature

California's legislative session began again when legislators returned Monday, January 6 for the second half of their two-year session.  Some of the key issues facing the lawmakers in 2014 include the following:

Budget: Democrats and Republicans appear to be in agreement that the state should use billions of dollars in additional tax revenue to pay down the state's debts and create a rainy day reserve to even out what has been a boom-or-bust series of budget cycles.

Water bond: Legislators are set to consider changing or delaying what is now an $11.1 billion bond scheduled to go before voters in November. There is a desire to lower the cost of a measure that already has been delayed twice. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has indicated that he wants to tie it to the debate over Brown's nearly $25 billion plan to build two 30-mile underground tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, while others want more reservoirs.

Education: Democratic leaders want to fund preschool programs with the eventual goal of creating universal transitional kindergarten for 4-year-olds. They also want to find enough money for the University of California and California State University systems to avoid raising tuition.

Environment: The will very likely be another effort to seek changes to the landmark California Environmental Quality Act, which many lawmakers say has sometimes been used to block worthwhile job-creating projects.

Crime: The debate will continue over whether the state should pour hundreds of millions of dollars into rehabilitation programs or spend the money building or renting prison space. The decision likely will be driven by federal judges who are expected to decide as early as January whether to give the state more time to reduce inmate crowding.