Speaker Brown Woos GOP, Ladles Out Chairmanships

Times Staff Writers

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), who had punished Republicans for two years, Thursday moved to solidify his support by handing out huge scoops of political largess to the GOP in the form of committee chairmanships and vice chairmanships.

Brown increased by seven the number of Assembly committees and named minority Republicans to chairmanships of four committees and to vice chairmanships of 26 panels for the 1985-86 legislative session.

For the past two rancorous years, Republicans in the lower house chaired no committees and held only a handful of vice chairmanships after voting against Brown for Speaker in 1982. And Brown served notice several weeks ago that there would be no committee chairmanships for the GOP again this year if Republicans continued to vote against him as a bloc.

When the new session was organized last month, however, he was reelected Speaker by acclamation on a motion by newly elected Assembly GOP Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale in a rare show of bipartisan harmony.

Building His Base The list of committee assignments announced Thursday by the Speaker also shows that he is further buttressing his power base by increasing the number of permanent Assembly committees from 23 to 30 in order to have more chairmanships to dispense. He insisted that the new additions would not cost taxpayers more money.

"We will spend the same exact money we are currently spending for existing committees," Brown said.

The posts of committee chairmen are highly prized because of the power, prestige and staffs they command. Committee heads also are in a better position to solicit campaign contributions at election time from interests whose legislation comes before their various panels.

On the other hand, vice chairmanships carry little actual political clout but often are perceived as being highly influential. Vice chairmen usually only pinch hit for an absent chairman.

In the Senate, the Democratic-controlled Rules Committee split the budget-writing Finance Committee into two committees--a new Appropriations Committee and a Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. But veteran Finance Chairman Alfred E. Alquist (D-San Jose) will chair both.

Additionally, a new Senate Toxics and Public Safety Management Committee was established and will be chaired by Sen. Art Torres (D-South Pasadena). It will deal with issues related to toxic and hazardous wastes and with potential disasters such as earthquakes.

Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the Rules Committee, indicated that splitting the Finance Committee and creating the toxics panel would be handled with existing staff and would result in no additional costs.

Roberti said the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee of 11 members will deal with state budget issues, while the nine-member Appropriations Committee would consider spending bills.

Previously, the Finance Committee performed both tasks, a circumstance that he said "enormously overworked" the members. The division also was done to accommodate the large number of senators who sought seats on the powerful finance panel. Half the Senate's 40 members will serve on the two new committees.

Senate Republicans maintained their existing two chairmanships--Sens. Milton Marks of San Francisco will continue to head the Local Government Committee and Jim Ellis of San Diego will again chair the Constitutional Amendments Committee.

The GOP did, however, pick up an additional five vice chairmanships and took majority control of the Local Government Committee. Every other committee is dominated by Democrats.

In a break with tradition, Sen. Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), a night-school law student, was appointed chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a post long reserved for an attorney. Roberti said that even though Lockyer was not a lawyer, he represents a "political bent" that reflects the philosophy of most Senate Democrats.

In the Assembly, the new committees are Governmental Efficiency and Cost Control, Intergovernmental Relations, Public Investments, Finance and Bonded Indebtedness and Veterans Affairs. In addition, Brown split Consumer Protection and Toxic Materials into two committees. He also split Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments into two panels.

Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) retained his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

The four new Republican committee heads are Larry Stirling of San Diego, Criminal Law and Public Safety; Robert C. Frazee of Carlsbad, Consumer Protection; Phillip D. Wyman of Tehachapi, Constitutional Amendments, and Cathie Wright of Simi Valley, Intergovernmental Relations.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World