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Bills on new Warriors, Kings arenas await fate in California Legislature

SACRAMENTO — Two NBA teams in Northern California will be closely watching the final days of this year's legislative session, when state lawmakers will consider measures that would aid construction of new arenas for the franchises.

One proposal would assist the Golden State Warriors in their plan to move the team from Oakland to a possible waterfront arena in San Francisco, a move that has drawn the ire of East Bay lawmakers upset at jobs moving away.

The other measure is a last-minute proposal from the state Senate's top Democrat to make good on his promise to NBA officials that the Sacramento Kings will be able to build a new downtown arena with no unnecessary hassles involving California's tough environmental laws.

In both cases, the plans would still require approval from several government agencies. While the Warriors' plan has faced mostly regional concerns, critics have blasted the Kings arena bill as the latest in a pattern of special legislation aimed at jump-starting a particular project.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, disputes that assessment, telling reporters that aspects of his legislation would apply to projects beyond an arena for the Kings.

The proposed arena, to be located at a site currently occupied by a mall, was part of the pitch that Sacramento made to the NBA in its effort to keep the team from moving to Seattle. The team's new owners want to open the facility in fall 2016.

Keeping the Kings in the state capital is "a once-in-a-generation economic development opportunity," Steinberg said. For big projects that bring jobs, particularly for urban redevelopment, Steinberg said the state should "expedite the process and avoid undue litigation that can defeat what is otherwise a great opportunity and a great idea."

His amendment to SB743 would still require the project to go through a full environmental review process, but it would speed up consideration of lawsuits and allow for mediation instead of legal battles.

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