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SACRAMENTO — Supporters of Proposition 64, a ballot measure aimed at making it harder to sue under the state’s unfair competition law, are declaring dead in the water a move to hash out a legislative compromise before the close of the current session. On Thursday afternoon, members of several key environmental and labor organizations met with California Civil Justice Association President John Sullivan and California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg. That group “concluded nothing could be done on 17200 in legislation before the session ends,” said Sullivan. “There was agreement that it’s too bad we didn’t start working together sooner.” But supporters of the legislative compromise said Prop 64 supporters are throwing in the towel too quickly. “The fat lady hasn’t sung yet — but she may be starting to get up from her seat,” said Bill Magavern, senior legislative analyst for the Sierra Club. Environmental leaders were prodded to seek a legislative fix earlier this month by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in a private meeting told them he wanted to avoid a costly and complicated initiative campaign. Supporters say the governor will now have to muscle opposing parties to the table if he wants a last-minute deal. James Sturdevant, president of the Consumer Attorneys of California, said the fact that Thursday’s meeting ended in discord is no surprise, given the distance between the two camps. The solution, he said, “is not simply to let the 4-year-olds have at it.” Anxious to avoid a costly campaign, environmentalists gutted language from a pending bill authored by outgoing Sen. Byron Sher, D-Palo Alto, that had dealt with the state’s Public Utilities Code. New language added to the bill would require private parties using Business & Professions Code § in order to sue on the public’s behalf to submit a copy of the complaint to the attorney general’s office within 10 days. That “placeholder” language was intended to begin discussions that would lead to additional changes in 17200, including requiring judicial approval of 17200 settlements and requiring 17200 defendants to be notified of their rights. The bill, SB 185, is now co-authored by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Norwalk. It is scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Similar legislative changes were proposed by Escutia and other legislators and defeated in the Legislature last fall. Environmentalists say 17200 is a crucial tool in protecting threats to the environment and public health. They said they were motivated to reach a legislative solution in part because Prop 64 has been heavily funded by corporate supporters and auto dealers, who have helped raise more than $10 million for the campaign. The state legislative session is scheduled to end today, in time for Republican members to make it to New York for the GOP convention, where Schwarzenegger is slated for a prime-time speech slot Tuesday.

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