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California Democrats lose supermajority in state Senate

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Democrats who control California's legislature lost their supermajority in the state Senate on Friday when a business-friendly moderate from the state's Central Valley abruptly resigned.

Senator Michael Rubio, elected in 2010, said he was stepping down to take a job with Chevron Corp, which will leave fellow Democrats with 26 seats in the Senate. Two other Democratic-leaning seats in the 40-member Senate are vacant.

Rubio had been expected to spearhead the effort to overhaul environmental laws in a more business-friendly fashion.

With the loss of the 27-seat supermajority, Democrats will have to put on hold, at least temporarily, some of their more ambitious plans opposed by the Senate's Republican minority. Rubio is likely to be replaced by a member of his party in a special election.

Democrats in the November election won supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly, which notably gave them the power to pass tax hikes or put constitutional amendments before voters on their own.

Prior to the election, Democratic lawmakers had to court Republican colleagues to be able to reach the required two-thirds vote of the legislature to approve bills to raise taxes, efforts all too often snubbed by anti-tax GOP lawmakers.

Rubio had planned to lead efforts to change the California Environmental Quality Act. He chaired an environmental issues committee seen as key to overhauling the law.

Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, also is in favor of changes to the 40-year-old law. Its critics have long held the law can be used to impose costly delays on construction projects.

(Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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