A bill to assist Simi Valley schools in financing classroom renovation, threatened by a political dispute involving its author, won narrow passage in the Assembly on Monday.
The bill, by Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), had become snared in a debate over Wright’s refusal to back fellow GOP members last month when they supported the challenge of a dissident Democrat trying to unseat Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco).
But on Monday, Wright was able to garner 54 votes--the exact two-thirds majority necessary in the 80-member Assembly--with support from Republicans as well as Democrats.
Last Thursday, Wright survived a GOP attempt to remove her from the powerful Rules Committee, where she was placed by Brown after refusing to vote for his ouster.
Republicans at first hoped they could pressure Wright into relinquishing the committee post by threatening to scuttle the school finance bill. But Wright refused.
“There were some hard feelings about it, there’s no doubt about it,” Wright said after Monday’s vote. She added, however, that she did not anticipate further problems over her committee assignment.
“To me it’s a closed issue,” she said. “I’m ready to go on with the work.”
The Assembly bill would allow the Simi Valley Unified School District more time to repay a $35-million bond issue that will be submitted to district voters March 7.
The bill is identical to legislation passed last year that allowed school district officials to tell voters that a $35-million bond issue on the 1988 ballot would result in a tax-rate decrease. Despite the assurances, the bond was narrowly defeated, falling two percentage points short of the required two-thirds majority vote.
Passage of Wright’s bill could be expected to bolster the chances of the latest bond measure.
“It’s really like a person refinancing their home,” Simi Valley Superintendent of Schools John Duncan said. “Wright’s bill simply allows this community, if the measure passes, to take a very small present loan and extend it in order to lower the tax rate.”
The bond, which would be paid off in 25 years, is sought for repairs to the district’s 27 schools, most of which are more than 25 years old. It would cost the average homeowner a maximum of $55.70 annually, Duncan said.
“There seems to be great community support for the measure,” Duncan said.