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Senate Opts for Peace, Ends Its Freeze on Assemblyman

Times Staff Writer

The Senate on Tuesday lifted its weeklong embargo of legislation by Assemblyman Steve Peace (D-Chula Vista), unanimously approving two of his bills and pulling 11 others off the inactive shelf.

There was qualified forgiveness, however, for Peace, whose legislation had been boycotted by the Senate since he had a verbal spat last Tuesday with powerful Senate Appropriations Chairman Alfred E. Alquist (D-San Jose).

Alquist accused Peace of shouting obscenities at him during the Capitol corridor confrontation, which started after Alquist’s committeerejected a proposal by Peace to spend $3 million for school buses equipped for handicapped passengers.

Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) said he believed that Peace owed the 77-year-old Alquist what he called a clear-cut “I’m sorry about that” apology.

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But Roberti added that Peace’s “legislation will move. . . . We can’t let these personality conflicts get in the way of the business of the house.”

The first two bills to break the boycott were approved without dissent and sent to Gov. George Deukmejian on a 34-0 vote. They would increase criminal penalties for sex crimes against a mentally disabled person.

During the embargo, Peace’s bills were routinely placed on the Senate’s inactive shelf, a form of legislative limbo. But they can be brought back for action at a senator’s request.

Peace, who had written a letter to Roberti and met privately with Alquist on Monday, made what appeared to be a public apology Tuesday. At the close of a conference committee meeting on disposal of low-level nuclear waste, Peace turned toward Alquist and said:

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“Senator, I just want to thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and once again reiterate my apologies for our encounter the other day. I thank you for your assistance in getting together on this issue. Our discussions have been very fruitful.”

Alquist, who had sat next to Peace during the hour-long meeting, responded, “Very well, Mr. Peace.”

Peace, 32, refused to describe his private meeting with Alquist, except to say it occurred in the senator’s office and lasted about 30 minutes. But, he said, the Senate’s week-long retaliation against him for the shouting incident “is over.”

Roberti’s press secretary, John Hendricks, said Peace’s letter “was not an apology. . . . It was sort of a letter of explanation.”

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