By Kevin Yamamura
kyamamura@sacbee.com
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 – 9:03 am

The Assembly gaveled in and out Tuesday in a matter of minutes. The Senate did not meet as Democrats convened for their annual policy retreat at the UC Davis Medical Center.

For now, the fear of swift legislative action blocking new redevelopment projects is greater than its realization. Ever since Gov. Jerry Brown proposed eliminating redevelopment agencies last week, cities have been on edge.

Local officials across the state are quickly approving billions of dollars in new projects out of concern that state lawmakers will soon freeze redevelopment activities. Some cities, including Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova, convened Monday in emergency sessions on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, believing that lawmakers would halt their activities within 24 hours.

But there seems to be little political consensus in the Capitol on whether to freeze redevelopment activity for the time being, let alone eliminate the agencies for good.

Representatives of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Tuesday that their houses had no bills lined up to freeze new redevelopment projects.

An immediate moratorium would likely require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, the threshold for all urgency bills that take immediate effect. But neither Democrats nor Republicans are unified on the redevelopment issue.

Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, is opposed to eliminating redevelopment agencies, said spokeswoman Jann Taber. One of the state’s leading Democrats, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has called Brown’s redevelopment elimination a “non-starter.”

But some Republicans support eliminating redevelopment agencies because they dislike the agencies’ use of eminent domain. And some Democrats will be on board because unions representing teachers and local public safety workers will be in favor.

Then there is the term-limits factor. Because of increased turnover in the Capitol, many more lawmakers are arriving fresh from having served in city and county government.

“It’s not always going to be a party-line vote because many of us are coming from local government and have our experience with these issues,” said Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, chairman of the Local Government Committee, a former mayor and city councilman of Santa Clarita.

Smyth said he is opposed to eliminating redevelopment agencies, though he is open to greater restrictions on spending.

Though no legislation has moved through the Capitol, legislative fiscal sources said there are theories floating about whether the Legislature could immediately freeze redevelopment projects on a majority vote rather than a two-thirds vote.

One would take advantage of Proposition 25, which requires only a majority vote for any budget-related bill. Another would prevent redevelopment agencies from incurring more debt retroactive to the date of Brown’s budget release. The latter bill would presumably have to be approved in a special legislative session.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Tuesday the City Council should examine whether the city can fast-track allocating redevelopment funding, much like other cities have done in recent days.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we jeopardize those dollars,” he said.

Redevelopment funding has helped several high-profile projects in the city, including three entertainment venues that opened last week on K Street, the Citizen Hotel and the midtown loft building where the governor lives.

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