Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti said Tuesday that he may shelve a landmark workfare bill until next year because it could create new “latchkey children” who would receive inadequate child care.
The Los Angeles Democrat also said he is reluctant to waive Senate rules so the Assembly-approved measure can be heard in committee immediately. He said he dislikes the idea of rushing through such a major bill during the final two weeks of the legislative session.
“I’m not closing the door on anything. But I’m thinking about it,” Roberti said in an interview. “It’s just difficult to have three full-scale hearings in which everybody feels that their concerns have been addressed in the closing days of the session when we have about 1,000 bills to process at the same time.”
As chairman of the Rules Committee, Roberti is in a position to delay action on the bill until next year by refusing to go along with waiving rules so the bill can be heard in committee before the session ends on Sept. 13.
Lobbied by Deukmejian
In the last week, he has been lobbied to grant the rule waivers by supporters of the workfare measure, including Gov. George Deukmejian and two leading authors of the bill, Assemblymen Art Agnos (D-San Francisco) and Ernest Konnyu (R-Saratoga).
The workfare bill, one of Deukmejian’s top priorities, would overhaul the state’s welfare system by requiring about 170,000 able-bodied recipients of public aid to work, go to school or receive job training in exchange for their checks.
Among its provisions, the measure would provide funds for the care of welfare children while their parents work. But opponents of the measure say that not enough child-care facilities exist for these children and that many would remain unsupervised or in the care of relatives and neighbors.
Roberti has linked workfare to the debate over the children of mostly middle-class working parents who do not receive adequate child care. These children have become known as latchkey children because many of them carry keys around their necks to let themselves into empty homes after school.
“The available money (in the workfare bill) goes exclusively to welfare mothers rather than working mothers,” Roberti protested.
Last year, Deukmejian vetoed a measure by Roberti that would have provided $35 million for latchkey children. This year, he is carrying a similar measure that calls for spending $50 million.