Special Session on Toxics Cleanup Urged

Times Staff Writer

Gordon Cologne, the former lawmaker hired to lobby for passage of Gov. George Deukmejian’s bill to create a new toxics cleanup agency, said Wednesday he has urged the governor to call a special session of the Legislature in January to deal with the derailed proposal.

If the Legislature, meeting in a special session that ran concurrently with its regular session, approved the plan, the new department could be in place 90 days later, Cologne said in an interview. Otherwise, Deukmejian would have to wait until Jan. 1, 1987, to put his proposal into effect.

The governor has the power to call the legislators into special session at any time, but by waiting until January, when the lawmakers are due back in the Capitol, “tempers will have cooled down,” Cologne said.

Quick Action

“It could be done in three or four days . . . and go into effect in April.

“I have a strong feeling the governor will put the bill before a special session,” said Cologne, who discussed the issue with the governor earlier this week after the toxics proposal’s failure to win Assembly approval Saturday.


Deukmejian’s press secretary, Larry Thomas, said the governor will not make a decision on how to proceed with his toxics proposal until early October, when he must decide how to act on the more than 1,000 bills before him. “I’m sure he will give Gordon’s advice great weight,” Thomas said.

According to Cologne, there are few alternatives that would allow for quick action.

The governor’s plan to create a new waste management department, along with a statewide waste commission and three regional ones, would have been in place by Jan. 1, 1986, but the Assembly adjourned until January without voting on it.

Transfer of Power

The plan would remove most of the power to enforce hazardous waste cleanup from the Department of Health Services and the California Water Resources Control Board and turn it over to a new department of waste management, headed by a director reporting to the governor.

But the measure became embroiled in an end-of-the-session dispute over an unrelated bill by Assembly Rules Committee Chairman Louis J. Papan (D-Millbrae) that would increase by $142 a month the income that a disabled couple could keep and still be eligible for Medi-Cal benefits.

Assembly Republicans on Saturday morning killed the Papan bill, refusing to bow to Democratic demands that they vote in favor of it and also rejecting pleas from the governor’s office to approve it. In retaliation, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) simply adjourned the session.

The measure previously passed the Senate by a comfortable margin.

Without the approval of the Assembly, the governor’s toxics cleanup plan was left in legislative limbo. It will still be on the Assembly’s agenda when the lawmakers return. But even if approved, it would not go into effect until January, 1987, three months after the 1986 session is over.

Constitutional Provision

Cologne, a retired appellate judge who previously served in the Assembly and Senate, noted that under the state Constitution, a bill creating a new governmental department cannot be enacted as an urgency measure. Urgency bills require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and go into effect as soon as signed by the governor.

Deukmejian also has submitted his proposal under a provision of state law allowing the governor to reorganize state agencies. A reorganization approved under provisions of that law would go into effect 33 days after the Legislature reconvenes in January unless either the Assembly or Senate opposes it.

But Cologne and others have argued that this reorganization law is itself probably unconstitutional and that any plan approved under its provisions would be challenged in court.