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Last-minute legislation delivered to Brown’s desk

Reporting from Sacramento -- In the final hours of the legislative year, state lawmakers sent a bevy of bills to Gov. Jerry Brown, including proposals to extend a coveted tax break for Hollywood, require private insurers to cover treatment for autism and move all ballot initiatives to November general elections.

Legislators shot down attempts by Brown to extend a 1.5% surcharge on utility bills for renewable energy projects. Opponents contended that earlier incarnations of the program, which began in 1997, were ineffective and wasteful. The only version of the proposal to come up for a vote, AB 724 by Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), fell seven votes short in the Senate.

Lawmakers were more eager to green-light a one-year extension of a film credit designed to keep Hollywood productions in the state. Worth about $100 million, it was less than the five-year extension that the industry sought. But opponents said it was still too much to give away while the state was laying off teachers and slashing public services.

A study by a Senate committee released Thursday found the state had squandered $6.3 billion on other tax breaks in the previous decade.

Advocates of an extension wearily defended it as lawmakers prepared to vote on it about midnight.

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“This is not a giveaway,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) said before the bill, AB 1069 by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar), easily passed both houses with bipartisan support.

But there was vitriol over Democrats’ push to move ballot initiatives to November general elections, when voters are expected to be more liberal than during June primaries. The bill’s immediate effect would be to shift two measures sharply opposed by unions — one to stop them from using members’ dues for political donations, the other to limit state spending — to November ballots.

Republicans were livid, especially since the bill was written Friday, the final day of the session, and came to the Senate after midnight. “We’re not satisfied with stealing bills,” said Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga). “Now we’re going to steal elections.”

The author, Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), said larger electorates in November are more representative of the general population. “This is also good government, because more voters vote in November,” she said before the measure, SB 202, passed 23 to 15.

The Legislature also approved the autism bill, SB 946. Critics contend it requires companies to cover questionable treatments. Author Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the state Senate leader, said the treatments are proven and insurers have an obligation to help combat autism.

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Times staff writers Marc Lifsher and Anthony York contributed to this report.


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