A $495-million jail bond measure qualified for the June primary election ballot Monday when both houses of the Legislature passed the long-stalled bill, and it was quickly signed by Gov. George Deukmejian.
The Assembly, with no debate, voted 66 to 2 for the measure and the Senate followed a short time later, 36 to 2. The governor added his signature an hour later.
Assembly Republicans had blocked the bill for more than two weeks and agreed to its passage only when Democrats accepted amendments watering down what the GOP had derided as “touchy feelie” language.
The disputed language would have required that some of the bond money be used to provide separate jail facilities for teen-aged, alcoholic or mentally ill inmates. The GOP amendments leave open the possibility of using some money for these purposes, but do not mandate it.
The author of the measure, Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), said amendments made the bond issue “softer, less objectionable,” and were negotiated last week during two private meetings attended by Republican and Democratic leaders.
Still pending in the Legislature, however, is a proposed $150-million library bond issue that previously had been a companion to the jail measure. Backers had hoped to place both on the June ballot.
Sen. Barry Keene (D-Benicia), author of the library measure, conceded that he was pessimistic about the bill’s chances because of Republican opposition.
“Republicans say libraries are a local function, not a state function, even though libraries are falling down all over the state,” Keene said.
Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) issued a prepared statement late Monday asserting that it was “reprehensible” for Republicans to “deny to our leaders of tomorrow adequate facilities in which to read and learn.”
Secretary of State March Fong Eu had warned that delaying passage of the bond measures jeopardized a place on the June ballot because of printing and other deadlines. But a spokesman for her office said Monday that the jail measure could be placed on the ballot, although a supplemental ballot pamphlet may have to be printed to include pro and con arguments.
The jail bond money would be available for use by county governments. But the measure passed Monday does not spell out precisely how the money would be divided among the counties. That sticky issue still must be negotiated and resolved by passage of a second bill.
Originally, the measure decreed that money “shall be” available for detoxification centers, as well as jail construction. Under the version passed Monday, the measure now says that money “may be” available to provide “separate facilities for care of mentally ill inmates and persons arrested because of intoxication.” It deletes any references to detoxification centers.
Money at Center
The chief issue was money, Presley said. The senator pointed out that detoxification centers with special counselors and treatment for chemically dependent individuals is far more expensive than putting defendants in “drunk tanks.”
The amended measure also eliminated language requiring the removal of all juveniles from county jail facilities. Now, counties simply will be instructed to adopt a plan to prohibit the detention of juveniles in county jails.