$5 Million in State Funds Approved for Tolerance Museum

Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian signed legislation Tuesday that will provide $5 million in state funds for a proposed Museum of Tolerance at the private Simon Wiesenthal Center in West Los Angeles.

The governor, plowing his way through hundreds of bills passed by the Legislature before its summer recess, also signed bills that will aid victims of child abuse, help small businesses prevent toxic contamination and allow the storage of water in natural underground basins.

Measures that will permit hotels and motels to sell alcohol to guests in their rooms and prevent future buyers of time-share vacation units from paying a form of double taxation were among 99 bills signed by the governor, his office announced.


The Museum of Tolerance measure, carried by Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), will provide $5 million toward the construction of a museum to educate the public about the Holocaust and other genocides in history.

$20-Million Complex

The museum will be housed in a new $20-million complex named after Wiesenthal, the Nazi hunter. It will include an exhibit on the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks, a subject that Deukmejian, who is of Armenian descent, has been outspoken about.

Some critics contended that the state should not contribute funds to a private, religion-oriented organization. But the measure was approved overwhelmingly by both houses of the Legislature.

Deukmejian signed into law two bills carried by Assemblywoman Sunny Mojonnier (R-Encinitas) designed to help victims of child abuse.

One measure authorizes magistrates to delay a preliminary hearing indefinitely to prevent physical, mental or emotional harm to child witnesses under the age of 11.

The second bill empowers judges to require convicted child molesters to pay restitution to victims for the costs of medical or psychological treatment.

Another measure signed by the governor would give financial aid to small businesses and farms to clean up potentially toxic hazards on their property.

Under the bill by Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda), money could be used by such businesses as gas stations to remove potentially hazardous underground gasoline tanks. It could also be used by farmers near the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge to double-line waste-water ponds as a way of preventing contamination by the toxic trace element selenium.

First-Year Loans

In its first year, about $15 million in low-interest loans would be available for small businesses and farms by assessing major corporations that receive government assistance in the form of revenue bond financing.

“Small businesses and small farms are having a hard time meeting the mandates of our tough new toxic waste laws,” Katz said. “They don’t have the access to low-interest, long-term financing which the big companies enjoy.”

The governor also signed a measure by Sen. Ruben S. Ayala (D-Chino) designed to increase California’s water storage capacity by using natural underground basins.

The measure permits the state to contract with local agencies to store water in underground basins south of the San Joaquin Delta.

Such basins, depleted of their own water by continued pumping, could store between 1 million and 3 million acre-feet of water. A typical reservoir on the surface in the state system can store about 1 million acre-feet of water.

“This is not the answer to the storage problem, but it goes a long way in providing water storage capacity,” Ayala said. “It will be less expensive than building new reservoirs.”

Starting next year, hotel and motel guests will be able to buy alcohol from locked cabinets in their rooms under a bill by Sen. Ralph Dills (D-Gardena).

Sponsored by the California Hotel and Motel Assn., the law permits only adults to be given access to the cabinets; only employees 21 years old and older would be allowed to stock them.

The time-share bill is a compromise that will prevent future buyers of time-share vacation units from paying both property taxes and hotel taxes. However, the measure carried by Assemblyman Tom Hanigan (D-Fairfield) will provide no relief to those who purchased time-share units before May 1 of this year.

Governor’s Words

Deukmejian, who vetoed a broader version of the bill last year, said in a statement to the Legislature:

“This bill will protect local governments’ current revenue base, which is derived in part from the transient occupancy tax, while affording protection to property of future time-share estate projects from paying a form of double property taxation.”

Deukmejian also signed:

--A bill by Sen. Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim) that would make intoxicated drivers of boats or vehicles who cause an accident liable for the cost of emergency services.

--A measure by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) that would increase penalties to three, five or seven years in prison for the manufacture of controlled substances.

--A bill by Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles) that would boost construction of low-income rental housing by increasing the amount of revenue bonds available and requiring that 10% of the units be built for the lowest-income people.