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Davis Says FBI Sting Led Assembly to Postpone Plan

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Times Staff Writer

Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia), complaining that his colleagues were running scared because of a federal sting operation in the capital, dropped a bill Tuesday that would have established a $1-million pilot program in Los Angeles County for tracking stolen cars.

Davis decided to abandon the bill after it was gutted Monday night in the Assembly amid criticism that it was tailor-made for a Massachusetts firm that sells high-tech equipment needed for the program. By a lopsided 46-13 vote, the Assembly moved to delay the program until June, 1990, and to require the winning bidder to give other companies access to patented material used to track the stolen vehicles.

“Everybody is a little goosey over there, and some of them with just cause,” said Davis, referring to an FBI sting operation that is focusing on legislation that would have benefited phony companies set up by the agency. “It was whispered to me that this was not the time to be doing something for one company. . . . Because of the (investigation) they said the last thing in the world you want to have happen to you is be associated with helping one company.”

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The Davis measure, which faced no opposition in the Senate and is unrelated to the sting operation, would have established a tracking system in which the Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff’s Department would use radio transmissions, high-tech electronics and computers to find stolen cars by activating transmitters placed in the vehicles by their owners.

The system was to be modeled after a Massachusetts program where authorities have used equipment sold by LoJack Corp. of Braintree, Mass., the company considered to have the inside track for the Los Angeles system.

Assemblyman Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who proposed the changes Monday night, said his amendments were designed to prevent one company from holding a monopoly on the sale of the transmitters. Costa sought the amendments at the request of Clifford Electronics, a Chatsworth manufacturer of auto security systems that retained Sacramento lobbyist Bernard Teitelbaum to oppose the bill.

Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda), who carried the measure in the Assembly, characterized Costa’s amendments as a “rip-off.” He said the amended bill would reward companies that have been “loafing along” by giving them equal footing with firms--such as LoJack--that developed the transmitter technology.

Los Angeles Police Sgt. Jeff Hulet, who on Tuesday was in Sacramento looking for ways to salvage the bill, said authorities are committed to the tracking system--regardless of the Assembly action. A spokeswoman for Katz said he may seek a reconsideration vote on the Costa amendments, but Davis predicted that the bill is dead for the session, which is scheduled to end tonight.

“I really learned what one good, powerful lobbyist can do,” Davis said. “We are deader than a doornail.”

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