Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 – 10:19 pm

The water squeeze is on. A few sprinkles fell on the Capitol Monday as the Legislature reconvened, but they didn’t relieve either a severe drought or pressure on members to respond.

Having procrastinated for years, politicians now may have no more than a week to fashion a new water bond for the Nov. 4 ballot to replace one that many fear is doomed because of its size – $11.1 billion – and obviously gratuitous pork.

Very soon, officials must begin printing ballots and other election material so they can be distributed to overseas voters, including troops in Afghanistan.

That may force a compromise, although panicky, last-minute legislating has backfired in the past.

Or it may force Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators to choose between leaving the current bond on the ballot and postponing it for a third time, thus offering voters nothing on water.

The issue’s politics are complex.

The 2009 bond was a bipartisan compromise. Many Republicans, believing that drought changes its dynamics, would just as soon leave it on the ballot because it contains $3 billion for new reservoirs.

They have some leverage because at least a few GOP votes are needed to pass a new bond issue. But Democrats contend only a simple majority vote is needed to delay the 2009 measure again, even though two previous postponements were urgency bills with two-thirds votes.

Beyond partisan maneuvering, the two biggest variables are the size of the bond and the specific projects it would finance.

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