GOP Forces Assembly Vote on Porno Vending Machines

Times Staff Writer

Assembly Republicans took advantage of a splintered Democratic Caucus Wednesday by forcing a floor vote on a bill to prohibit the sale of pornographic materials from vending machines in public places frequented by minors.

By a 48-20 bipartisan vote, the lower house amended a pending measure on the lower-house floor at the request of Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), who has a similar measure bottled up in a Democratic-dominated lower-house committee.

“The people of California do not want their children to see sodomy, oral copulation, sexual intercourse or masturbation,” Ferguson said. “We believe the children should be protected rather than the pornography.”


‘Political Fun and Games’

Assemblyman Phillip Isenberg (D-Sacramento) charged Ferguson was engaging in “political fun and games,” predicting the bill would be struck down as unconstitutional by the courts if it becomes law. A floor vote on the amended bill could come as early as today. Four of the so-called “gang of five” dissident Democrats currently feuding with Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) voted for the amendments.

Minority Floor Leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) said he considered the action to be a GOP victory.

“We won,” Nolan said after the vote. “We are accomplishing things on the merits of policy. I can’t control how other people interpret it.”

Nolan said the GOP would switch signals and use less confrontational methods in its sniping at Brown’s authority as it did Wednesday. Specifically, he said Republicans will attempt to amend other related measures on the floor, rather than bypass house rules and try to pry pigeonholed bills out of committee.

Originally, they had threatened to challenge Brown by trying to withdraw several controversial bills, including one to increase the penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana from $100 to $1,000 and the vending machine pornography bill.

Withdrawing a bill from committee is considered to be a political embarrassment for the Speaker because it leapfrogs the committee system, which is tightly controlled by the Speaker.


Brown beat back a similar challenge earlier this week but only after agreeing to place the contents of a bill to require AIDS testing of convicted prostitutes in another measure pending on the Assembly floor.

The acquired immune deficiency syndrome testing bill then swiftly passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote, which apparently convinced them a switch in tactics would get them more mileage than continuing to try to pry bills out of committee.

“That’s a proper process available to the membership,” Brown said after the vote. “It doesn’t violate any traditions of the house. They are free to do that.”

‘No Deals’

Nolan previously said he had made “no deals” with the Democratic gang of five to try to overthrow Brown as lower-house leader. Four in the gang of five were stripped of key committee posts by the Speaker.

The GOP is waiting for a majority to be achieved at the polls or a more solid coalition to make a move on Brown, who is scheduled to break the late Jesse M. Unruh’s seven-year, three-month, six-day longevity record as Assembly Speaker on March 7.