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Senators OK $1.6M to speed Calif. business filings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A bill intended to end a two-month backlog in processing business filings in California was approved by the state Senate on Thursday.

The Secretary of State's Office blamed state budget cuts for creating the conditions that caused the backlog of 122,000 applications. The office must process the forms before businesses can hire employees.

The $1.6 million granted through AB113 would let the office hire temporary employees and pay for overtime to process thousands of business applications. Senators amended the bill to reduce it from the $2 million that was originally appropriated by the Assembly.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said the bill will reduce the 55 days it currently takes to process the filings to less than 10 days by November.

Senators sent the bill back the Assembly on a 25-10 vote, over Republican objections.

Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, the budget committee's vice chairman, objected to majority Democrats' use of a budget bill to pass the measure with a simple majority instead of the two-thirds support that would usually be required.

Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, noted that lawmakers have repeatedly reallocated millions of dollars from fees the state collects from businesses to help close the state's budget gaps, "violating the trust of all those business owners who paid that fee."

Surpluses in those funds show the state is collecting too much from businesses to feed other state programs, while not delivering the services that employers require, he said. Allocating additional money to Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat, rewards her office for failing to do a proper job with the money it had, he said.

Leno said Bowen will be required to report to the Legislature each month on her progress in reducing the backlog.