By Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times
September 10, 2011

Reporting from Sacramento — A weary Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan sat before the Senate Natural Resources committee Friday and began to introduce the leader of California’s upper house. She paused.

“Senator Whatshisname,” said Buchanan, a Democrat from the East Bay town of Alamo, drawing laughter from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) as he sat nearby.

It was that kind of bleary-eyed week for the California Legislature, which churned through hundreds of bills in a rush to rewrite environmental, tax and regulatory laws before adjourning for the year.

Marathon floor sessions stretched from morning to evening. Rules were waived, quickie committee meetings were convened and sweeping new bills sprouted overnight — par for the course at this time of year. Lobbyists crammed the Capitol halls, hoping to win provisions for their clients in bills that were flying from chamber to chamber.

“It’s crazy,” said freshman Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-San Bernardino), experiencing his first end-of-session dash. “I had four committees the other day. I couldn’t get from one to the other to the other.”

Legislators displayed a nerdy brand of humor, slipping awkward phrases into otherwise formal debate. Some members scribbled odd sayings on yellow Post-its and challenged their colleagues to squeeze them into speeches.

“Thighmaster,” “whitey-tighties,” “puff the magic dragon” and even a twist on some David Bowie lyrics (“We can be heroes, members, even for just one day”) found their way into the proceedings.

Leaders struggled at times to keep the rank-and-file focused.

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