Assembly OKs high-speed rail bill

SACRAMENTO -- The state Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill aimed at improving the $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure on November's ballot. But the bill won't be sent to Gov. Schwarzenegger until there's "a signal" he will sign it, the bill's author said.

By holding the bill, Assembly Member Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, is buying more time for the governor. He supports the legislation but has vowed to veto all bills until lawmakers strike a deal on the 2008-09 budget, now 45 days late.

But the clock is still ticking. The deadline to put a new measure on the Nov. 4 ballot is Saturday, though that could change. If a budget deal is cut soon, it would clear the way for the governor to sign the rail bill without breaking his pledge.

Rail supporters believe they might have as long as two weeks to change the measure because counties will not start printing ballots until the end of the month.

Galgiani's bill, AB 3034, replaces Proposition 1, the original rail bond drafted years ago, with Prop. 1a, which includes more spending oversight.

Prop. 1a also includes language making it easier to spend bond money on segments that are not part of the main San Francisco-to-Los Angeles route through the San Joaquin Valley. The bond would cover less than a third of the project's total cost.

Although the deadline already has passed to amend ballot measures, Galgiani and the Governor's office say Prop. 1 can still be removed from ballots, even though it will appear in the main voter guide sent to voters. Prop. 1a would be described in a supplemental voter guide, which will cost more taxpayer money to produce. AB 3034, which already cleared the Senate, passed the Assembly on a 54-15 vote.