Legislative Session to Aid Edison Is Delayed

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Davis asks lawmakers to report Oct. 9 to vote on a plan, not yet devised, to keep the utility from filing for bankruptcy.

Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gray Davis issued a proclamation Thursday calling for a special legislative session to begin Oct. 9 so he can push lawmakers to approve a rescue plan for Southern California Edison.

The state Senate adjourned earlier this month without voting on the Edison deal backed by Davis, and the Democratic governor had said he planned to call legislators back for a special session to begin Oct. 2. Davis is hoping to help Edison avert bankruptcy.

With the administration and lawmakers still working on an as-yet elusive agreement to rescue Edison, the governor delayed by a week the start of the session. Some state senators would not have been available Tuesday.

Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility, filed for bankruptcy in April, and Davis is committed to keeping Edison from the same fate.

“This is a time of great economic uncertainty,” Davis said in a statement.

“Another utility bankruptcy is not in anyone’s interest. It is my belief that the Legislature and I can work responsibly to avoid rate hikes or additional layoffs.”

Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) said he asked the governor to delay the Edison session until Oct. 9, partly because some senators are traveling and also because the governor has not offered a deal that would win support in the upper house.

Burton said that “people are working” on crafting an Edison bill that can pass both houses, but added, “it is uphill.”

In order to win Senate Democratic support, Burton said the legislation “would have to protect all residential [customers] and many of the small-business people” from having to help Edison pay off its debt of $3.9 billion.

The Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, meanwhile, called on Davis to delay the special session until after he has completed signing and vetoing bills, a process that will end Oct. 14.

The group headed by Harvey Rosenfield has been among the most vocal opponents of an Edison deal, and contends that Davis may be planning to squeeze lawmakers by holding their bills hostage.

In a recent interview with The Times, Davis dismissed the notion that he would trade votes for whatever Edison plan he comes up with for his agreement to sign lawmakers’ favorite bills.

“I’ve got to sign bills that I think are right, whether I like the author or not,” Davis said.

“I take great pride in bills that I affix my name to. I don’t care if it is my best friend, my largest contributor [who backs a measure], if I don’t like the bill, I’m not going to sign it.”

Burton, meanwhile, said Davis might be able to pick up some support for an Edison deal if he were to revive a bill by Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) that sought to provide consumers with privacy in their financial affairs.

The bill stalled in the Assembly after Davis and Speier failed to reach agreement on Davis-backed amendments that the senator believed would have watered down the measure.

“There is one school of thought that if they tied it to Speier’s privacy bill, they could pick up two or three votes in our house, probably,” Burton said.

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