Davis' Voting Gaffe Pushes Bill He Fought : Measure Would Limit Money for Schools

Times Staff Writer

In a legislative mix-up, state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) inadvertently voted for a bill he opposes, a measure that would place a cap on the amount of money developers contribute to build schools.

Ironically, the prime supporter of the bill Davis accidentally supported was partly responsible for scuttling a bill by Davis that could have forced developers to pay more for school construction than they do now.

The strange sequence of events surrounding both bills offers a glimpse of the lobbying under way in Sacramento over school funding legislation.

The bill Davis mistakenly supported was introduced by Leroy Greene (D-Carmichael). The measure, backed by the California Building Industry Assn., would bar cities and counties from directly or indirectly charging developers excessive fees to build schools. Under state law, developers pay school districts $1.56 for each new square foot of construction.

Davis said Greene's bill was an attempt to reverse a state appeals court ruling that has opened the door for school districts to collect more than the established fee.

That ruling--in Mira vs. San Diego--said governments could refuse to grant zoning changes for developments that would overburden school systems.

Education and building industry officials say the Mira decision indirectly gave school districts the power to negotiate with builders, striking bargains to withdraw their opposition to developments.

Greene's bill does not mention the Mira case by name, but it clearly tries to prevent the sort of negotiations that Mira would encourage between schools and industry, said Hunt Braly, a Davis aide.

But Don V. Collin, chief counsel for the building association, denied charges that Greene's bill was deceptive. It merely reaffirms existing law, he said. He conceded that the bill could indirectly discourage the negotiations that Mira could produce.

Greene's bill did not attract any opposition from educational lobbyists and appeared to be a routine item when presented to the State Senate on Thursday of last week, Davis said. Like many routine bills, it passed without objection on a 36 to 0 vote.

Davis said he must have been outside the Senate chamber when the vote was recorded. He was in and out of the chamber throughout the day, and his failure to object would have been recorded as part of a favorable vote by all members present, he said. "I have no recollection of the bill," he said. "If I had been aware of it, I would have raised a lot of hell--and the bill would have passed anyway."

Greene's bill could have a strong impact in Los Angeles County, Braly said. Last month, the Los Angeles County counsel, citing the Mira decision, told the Board of Supervisors that it could consider the effects of development on schools when weighing building proposals. This opinion reversed a previous county policy.

Last month, Davis agreed to co-sponsor a bill by Assemblyman Thomas M. Hannigan (D-Fairfield), which said cities and counties could only approve new developments if financing was available for schools, roads and other public services. The bill passed the Assembly 43-34.

The building association, saying the bill would "accommodate every whim for a public facility," urged its members to lobby their senators to vote against the bill. Last month, the Senate Local Government Committee referred the legislation to interim study, a procedural move that Davis called a "polite way of killing the bill."

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