At an hour when many people were asleep Friday night, Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) was standing in a legislative conference room at the Capitol with a freeway sound wall uppermost in his mind.
Katz, one of several San Fernando Valley legislators scrambling to save their favorite bills as the Legislature wound down its 1984-85 session, was like a mother bear with a cub. He was trying to protect $4.6 million earmarked for a wall for constituents in Sepulveda who practically live on top of the San Diego Freeway.
After countless negotiations with colleagues in hallways, in meetings and on the floor of the Assembly and Senate, Katz had the freeway project added late last week to a massive $375-million “Christmas tree” bill. The measure contained two dozen appropriations for local projects around the state, ranging from the preservation of a historic creosote bush in the Mojave Desert to studying an endangered songbird in San Diego.
The sound-wall money emerged unscathed from a hastily called Assembly-Senate conference committee held at 11 p.m. Friday. Much to the pleasure of Katz, chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, the bill containing the money was passed by the Legislature in the hectic early morning hours Saturday before lawmakers left town for the year.
The Valley-area delegation, however, did not win all of its battles for constituents this year.
In the view of Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), a senior member of the group, the legislative session was a “mixed year” for the Valley.
It was a good year for Valley lawmakers sponsoring legislation affecting wild animals, nature lovers and “rock houses.”
It was a bad year for health-care advocates who oppose a Medi-Cal pilot project scheduled to start next year in the Valley and parents who have never given up hope that the Valley could one day have its own school district.
And it was a so-so year for supporters of a proposed Indian museum in Encino.
A review of legislation indicates that lawmakers introduced only a modest number of bills focused solely on the Valley.
The legislators noted, however, that constituent bills only represent one aspect of their work in Sacramento. Carrying bills of statewide importance and helping to block bills that might hurt the Valley or the region is another part of their jobs, the lawmakers say.
Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) said he sponsors district bills when necessary, but added: “I don’t look for what kind of spectacular bill I could introduce to really impress my constituents. . . . I don’t think it’s a good way to operate.”
Occasionally, however, a constituent’s concern has resulted in legislation with far-reaching impact.
This year, for example, M. A. Strandwall, a teacher from Tarzana, jotted down expired license-plate numbers on her way to work one day and sent the list to Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles), who represents parts of the Valley. The assemblyman, in turn, sponsored a bill creating an amnesty program for unregistered vehicles that could generate an estimated $17 million next year. The bill is on the governor’s desk.
Like Katz, Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) took advantage of a “pork barrel” bill funded by federal offshore oil revenue. She inserted into the measure $600,000 for a new interchange on the Golden State Freeway at Lyons Avenue in Newhall. The interchange was needed because of growing population in the area, she said. The governor is expected to sign the bill. Assemblyman Davis also garnered approval of a bill to extend the life of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which purchases open space in mountainous areas. Under approved legislation by Assemblyman Davis that went to the governor, the conservancy would be extended until 1990.
In Burbank, the conservancy would pick up $6-million worth of property in the Verdugo Mountains if a bill authored by Assembyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles) is signed into law. The legislation calls for $3 million for 240 acres of greenbelt land. The city would match the amount.
Among the approved measures affecting the Valley were:
A bill bailing out the Wildlife Waystation, a Tujunga Canyon refuge that provides a home to 500 lost, abandoned and mistreated wild animals. Gov. George Deukmejian in July signed the bill by Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge) that appropriated $300,000 for the nonprofit refuge. The county had prohibited its supporters from holding a fund-raiser on the grounds of the way station due to health and safety concerns.
A bill by Assemblyman Davis, approved by the Assembly early Saturday morning and sent to the governor, cracking down on landlords of drug “rock houses.” The bill would make it a felony for a landlord to knowingly allow a drug dealer to fortify a property for drug sales.
Meanwhile, Robbins had mixed success getting money for a controversial museum to house the Indian artifacts of “The Lost Village of Encino.” Legislation he sponsored ended up with only $50,000 for a feasibility study for the museum, far short of the $975,000 he originally sought for cataloguing and preserving the artifacts.
Legislation that failed to materialize included:
A measure to halt a Medi-Cal pilot project scheduled to begin in January. Robbins, who opposed the project called Expanded Choice, had announced he would try to block it. The project is supposed to save the state millions in health-care costs by placing Medi-Cal recipients in health maintenance organizations. As the end of the session approached, however, he concluded that he could not muster enough support.
A La Follette bill that would have made it easier for areas like the Valley to secede from a school district. The bill, which lingered in committee this year, would have reduced the number of petition signatures necessary to initiate a withdrawal.
La Follette said she remains committed to the Valley’s secession from the Los Angeles Unified School District even though the idea has stalled in the Legislature year after year. “It will be one of my highest priorities this next year,” she said.
A bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Bane (D-Van Nuys), which would have cleared the way for the City of Los Angeles to get a seat on the Burbank Airport board. The measure, similar to one that failed last year, stalled in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Bane said the city needed a vote on the board because of concerns of nearby Los Angeles residents about noise.