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Workfare Passes; Toxic Plan Loses : Seat Belt Law, Prison Construction Voted as Legislature Adjourns for ’85

Times Staff Writers

The Legislature adjourned for the year shortly before dawn Saturday after approving a major revision of the state welfare system, legislation requiring all motorists to wear seat belts and an emergency plan to build more prison cells .

In a fit of pique over Republican lawmakers’ refusal to approve a minor Medi-Cal measure, Assembly Democrats for the second time this year rejected Gov. George Deukmejian’s plan to create a new state agency to control toxic waste.

In retaliation against Deukmejian’s refusal to adopt strong state sanctions against South Africa, the Assembly also shelved a plan backed by the Republican governor that would have given foreign multinational corporations a $250 million tax break.

And Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), accusing Deukmejian of attempting to push through long-range prison projects in the guise of emergency expansion, refused to approve a penitentiary two miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

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Governor’s Response

At a press conference Saturday, Deukmejian praised lawmakers for approving the work-for-welfare and prison measures he had sought and said he would sign the seat belt bill.

However, Deukmejian lashed out at Brown and the Assembly Democrats for being “totally irresponsible and arrogant” and said, “This kind of political extortion has to come to an end.”

In the predawn hours Saturday, the Legislature reached a state of gridlock as leaders of both houses and lawmakers from both parties maneuvered to win passage of pet measures.

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Stopping the clock at midnight--the agreed-upon deadline for adjournment--both houses crammed decisions on some of the year’s most important issues into the last few hours of the 1985 session.

Both Democratic-controlled houses repeatedly waived their own procedural rules and at one point held a series of brief committee hearings to rubber stamp deals cut between legislative leaders and the governor.

The Senate ground to a halt at 4 a.m. while the Assembly stayed in session until 5:30 a.m., adjourning in a daze of self-congratulatory speeches.

The Legislature approved a bipartisan workfare compromise that would require able-bodied welfare recipients to work, receive job training or go to school in order to receive benefit checks.

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Democratic leaders and the governor, in a last-minute compromise, linked passage of workfare to Deukmejian’s approval of a major new state child-care program serving both welfare and working families.

The governor’s agreement to spend state funds for the first time on child care for working parents represented a major concession to Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles).

Deukmejian, who had proposed spending $63 million annually on child care solely for workfare parents, agreed to devote a total of $134 million annually for a new child-care program which also will serve non-welfare families. Additionally, the governor agreed to spend $36 million to develop new state-administered child-care centers for children of all families.

To push the compromise through, Roberti ordered the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to meet and approve the bill without permitting the panel to make any amendments to the workfare plan.

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Called ‘Forced Labor’

Despite an emotional plea from Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) to block “forced labor” for welfare recipients, the Senate approved the workfare measure by a 32-2 vote and sent it to the Assembly, where it passed, 59 to 8, at about 4 a.m..

Meanwhile, the Assembly passed, 56 to 12, a bill by Roberti containing the child care funds and sent the measure to the Senate, where it quickly was approved, 34 to 0.

Deukmejian on Saturday praised the Legislature’s action and called the package a “landmark mandatory program” that will “break the cycle of dependency.”

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But the governor’s toxic plan fell victim to partisan wrangling after it was held hostage by Rules Committee Chairman Louis Papan (D-Millbrae) in an unsuccessful bid to win Republican support for a bill he was sponsoring to provide $3 million so that aged, blind and disabled people could keep more of their own income and still be eligible for Medi-Cal.

Retaliation by Brown

The toxic bill, which would have reorganized the state’s handling of toxic waste, had been expected to easily win passage in the Assembly after it had sailed out of the Senate early Friday on a 30-8 vote. But Brown never called for an Assembly vote on the plan because Republicans blocked passage of Papan’s bill.

Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale called Papan a “petty tyrant” and, explaining the GOP action, declared, “We’ve finally said we’ve had enough.”

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But in doing that, Republicans went against the wishes of the governor, who privately had encouraged them to vote for the Papan bill so his toxic plan could pass.

Deukmejian charged on Saturday, referring to the Democrats, that “to adjourn without allowing a vote and to deliberately link it to a totally unrelated bill in the closing hours of the session is totally irresponsible and arrogant.”

Deukmejian had slightly better luck with the Legislature early Saturday on his prison program, winning approval of a $78-million crash construction program that will provide beds for 5,000 prisoners by next year.

Exemptions Denied

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But Assembly Democrats, who had scaled back the governor’s emergency plan in committee, denied him exemptions from California’s strict environmental review process that would have speeded construction.

Without short cuts in the review process, Administration officials said they may not be able to provide urgently needed prison beds before the November, 1986, gubernatorial election.

And in a blow to Deukmejian’s longer-term prison construction program, Brown also denied the governor authorization to build a prison near downtown Los Angeles.

“At no point is anybody going to vote for an L. A. prison tonight,” the Speaker advised his members at 2:30 a.m.

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Brown also refused to permit a vote on the proposed overhaul of California’s unitary tax system that would have given a big tax break to foreign corporations. Advocates say repeal of the unitary system would have encouraged new investment in the state.

Apartheid Issue

Although the proposal had the backing of Deukmejian and the Senate, Brown held up the bill in an angry response to the governor’s refusal to sign Democratic anti-apartheid legislation.

On a 26-12 vote, the Senate sought to insert compromise language that would have denied the tax break to companies operating in South Africa if they violated the Sullivan Principles of non-discrimination. But Brown contended the measure did not go far enough and shelved it until January.

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Because the Assembly refused to approve the tax break this year, Deukmejian said, British officials have informed him that Great Britain will take “some sort of retaliatory action” against California.

The seat belt measure, which also requires auto makers to equip California cars with air bags by 1989, cleared the Assembly by a vote of 48 to 21 and the Senate by a margin of 24 to 10.

Spraying Measure

In a major victory for the state’s influential agriculture industry, the Legislature approved a controversial measure that will severely restrict legal challenges to state pesticide spraying programs.

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Environmentalists and consumer groups had forged a compromise with the Administration but it collapsed when a procedural maneuver by rural legislators gave the governor the tougher measure he initially sought.

Growers, however, lost a battle over a bill requiring them to post signs in their fields to warn farm workers of the presence of pesticides. Sen. Nicholas Petris (D-Oakland) had sought the measure for two decades, but he conceded the governor is likely to veto it.

Meanwhile, the Assembly rejected a hastily drafted bill that would have prohibited insurance companies from canceling coverage for victims of this summer’s brush fire disasters.

After the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 27 to 4, insurance company lobbyists pressured the Assembly to kill the bill. The bill died when it received only 39 yes votes, 15 short of the total required for passage.

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Times staff writers Kenneth F. Bunting, Paul Jacobs, Douglas Shuit and Daniel M. Weintraub contributed to this story.


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