By Torey Van Oot
The Sacramento Bee
Published: Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Lawmakers returned to Sacramento with a bang Wednesday, kicking off 2012 with a flurry of new bills, a leadership transition and no shortage of drama involving members’ personal troubles.

While tackling a projected budget deficit of roughly $12 billion over the next 18 months will be a top priority, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg predicted that members would take action on a long list of issues during the second year of the two-year session, including public employee pensions, the state’s high-speed rail project and an $11 billion water bond slated for the November ballot.

The Sacramento Democrat said he felt the three-month recess, the first full break of its kind in years, had given members the energy and focus to “get off to a fast start.”

For Senate Republicans, the new year means a new leader. The caucus met in the afternoon to elect Diamond Bar Republican Bob Huff as GOP leader, the successor to Sen. Bob Dutton, who is termed out and running for the Assembly this year. Huff, of Diamond Bar, served as vice chair of the Senate Budget Committee last year.

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