SACRAMENTO -- A deal brokered by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders to ease prison crowding passed with overwhelming approval in the Assembly on Wednesday.
By a 75-0 vote, lawmakers approved the proposal, announced Monday, under which the state would ask a panel of three federal judges for time to expand programs aimed at reducing new crimes by ex-cons.
If the judges reject an extension, the state would spend $315 million this year to increase prison capacity in time to comply with the court's order to shrink the prison population by about 9,600 inmates by the end of the year.
The deal broke an impasse over how to comply with the order that pits the governor, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) and Republican legislative leaders against Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who sought more funding to address drug abuse and mental illness.
Pérez, speaking on the floor, said the compromise "allows for us to comply with the three-judge panel’s order but also would not allow for any inmates to be released early from prison."
He took pains to thank the Republican leaders in both houses for coming on board.
"This is a solution that truly was only possible because of the early bipartisan work between the governor, myself and the two Republican leaders," he said.
Even Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), one of the most conservative lawmakers in the Capitol, chimed in to voice "rare support" of the speaker's comments.
The warm feelings did not extend to the federal courts.
"We are here today because the federal courts have forced our hand," said Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo).
"This is absurd. We ought to add extra desks so the judiciary can join us and continue to make decisions for this body," said Gorell. "It’s a ridiculous precedent."
The bill now heads to the Senate for final legislative approval.