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Foes Become Unlikely Allies on Child-Care Bill

Times Staff Writer

A bill allowing industrial development bond financing for child-care centers won final approval Saturday, ending a strange yearlong series of legislative twists during which two Orange County legislators--state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) and Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove)--were alternately foes and allies.

The measure was sent to the governor on a 64-3 Assembly vote. Its author is listed as Robinson.

But in truth it was Bergeson’s proposal, introduced last year at the behest of the Orange County Commission on the Status of Women.

One year ago, Robinson’s office was being bombarded with angry phone calls from people who accused of him of killing Bergeson’s measure as a favor to Democratic leaders who had their own bills to increase child-care funding in California.

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Irked by Maneuver

Bergeson was particularly irked by a Robinson maneuver closing the last 1985 meeting of his Assembly Committee on Public Investments just as Bergeson was walking down a Capitol corridor for a hearing on the bill.

Robinson said at the time he could not allow a vote on Bergeson’s bill anyway because legislative rules prohibit votes on bills that have major last-minute amendments.

Bergeson, who was angry about the way Robinson handled the situation, said the amendments she was proposing were not all that significant. In actuality, they were.

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At an earlier committee hearing, the bill had been restricted to make the low-interest, tax-exempt bonds for child care available only to businesses that could have qualified for them already--a list that included manufacturing and processing plants, industrial parks, hotels, motels, fast-food restaurants and shopping malls.

Bergeson wanted to remove that restriction and make the bonds available to any qualified public or private concerns interested in building child-care centers.

Only Applying the Rules

Observers also were surprised by Robinson’s insistence that he was only applying the rules. In Sacramento, there is a saying that “rules are made to be waived.” And Robinson has gained a reputation during his 12 years here at being the very best tactician at making the rules work the way he wants.

Last March, when the bill finally passed Robinson’s committee after being stalled for months, Robinson--still a little upset over criticism he had received from child-care advocates in Orange County--agreed to personally shepherd the measure through the Assembly. But he would do it slowly, he said, to make certain that tax reform proposals in Washington did not erase all the tax advantages of industrial development bonds.

Bergeson, who first introduced the bill in February, 1985, was not particularly thrilled about another delay. But not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, she politely expressed her gratitude.

The bill that passed Saturday had Robinson’s name on it because of a favor Bergeson did for Gov. George Deukmejian. Last month, she agreed to author a controversial proposal for the state to borrow $300 million from the state employee’s pension fund. The measure was first amended into her original child-care bill. Then, in a maneuver designed to expedite passage of the pension loan, Bergeson, an influential legislator with close ties to the Deukmejian Administration, deleted the child-care provisions.

Somewhere, among 7,039 bills California lawmakers had authored during the session, she could find another “vehicle” into which she could insert her child-care proposal, Bergeson thought.

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She did. And--you guessed it--it was a bill authored by Robinson. Saturday, it passed both houses of the Legislature and now awaits Deukmejian’s signature.


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