But, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, in an impassioned 12-minute floor speech, said he and other Democrats had severe misgivings with the reform, and only agreed to it to avoid a federal takeover, which has been threatened by judges responding to a lawsuit over prison conditions. The Senate barely mustered enough votes required for a two-thirds approval. Six Democrats and four Republicans voted against the bill. By contrast, with only one holdout – Southern California Republican Audra Strickland – the Assembly approved the bill behind a boosterish Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, lauding the moment as a “proud day,” though he also warned that plenty of difficulties remain. Schwarzenegger was ecstatic with the prison expansion and happy he could say no inmates would be released before finishing their sentences. “For the first time in a decade, we can add prison beds in California,” he said. “With this agreement, we will add a total of 53,000 new beds so dangerous criminals can be kept locked up where they belong.” Senate Republicans were less effusive, with several criticizing how it will be paid for: with $6.1 billion in revenue lease bonds, which don’t have to go to voters for approval. SACRAMENTO – Legislators delivered a historic $7.4billion prison reform package Thursday to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which could help the state avert a federal takeover of a prison system plagued by severe overcrowding. But simmering just below the surface of what many called their first post-partisan success of the legislative session was a fear – primarily among Senate Democrats – that the reforms would fail unless lawmakers tackled sentencing and parole reform, and begin to fill 4,000 vacant prison guard and staff positions. The bill, AB 900, was approved by the Assembly on a 70-1 vote, and 27-10 in the Senate a day after legislative leaders reached an agreement with the governor. The proposal will add 53,000 new inmate beds, enhance education, job training and drug rehabilitation programs, and also allow the governor to transfer up to 8,000 inmates out of state. The reforms would take place over two phases, in which construction of new beds in the second would continue only if the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows that rehabilitation programs are succeeding. “The reason they’re revenue lease bonds is because this Legislature doesn’t want it to go before voters,” said Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley. “You’re afraid to let people decide and you’re afraid people will say no and you know better.” Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, one of the 11 senators to vote against the bill, said legislators lost an opportunity to address the severe overcrowding crisis with sentencing and parole reform. “Adding more beds is not going to solve an immediate prison crisis and certainly not a systematic, long-term crisis,” said Romero, who is the author of a bill to create a sentencing commission. “It’s not a plan – it’s really a Hollywood prop. That’s what the governor asked for, to be able to walk into court to tell the judge he’s being tough on crime.” Perata blamed tough-on- crime politicians over the years for enacting new criminal laws without examining long-term costs associated with more inmates. “So, we’re jammed up in this situation because we’ve fallen in love with one of the most undocumented, non-evidentiary beliefs that somehow you get safer if you put more people in jail,” he said. “So, we’re all indicted in this.” Staff Writer Fred Ortega contributed to this story. [email protected] (916) 441-2101 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!