Special Interests Winning, Governor Says

Times Sacramento Bureau Chief

Showing frustration and impatience, Gov. George Deukmejian declared Wednesday that special interests are "hard at work and winning" in the state Capitol as the Legislature scurries to adjourn for the year next week.

The governor expressed particular irritation over the lack of progress of two legislative measures he sorely wants: a long-negotiated, major reform of California's system for compensating injured workers and a proposed state constitutional amendment allowing prison convicts to work in private enterprise to help pay for their keep and compensate their victims.

Deukmejian announced it is "a very, very likely possibility" that he will sponsor his own 1990 ballot initiative on prison labor if the Legislature spurns his proposal.

The Republican governor called a Capitol press conference to publicly prod the Legislature and send its Democratic leaders a message that he is willing to compromise on some of the measures they seek--such as restoring funds for family planning programs and extending health care insurance to workers lacking coverage--if they will dicker seriously on things he wants.

"You know, when you see some movement and support for your (legislative) priorities, you just necessarily feel a lot better about looking favorably on their priorities," the governor said with a twinkle in his eye and a sheepish grin.

But Deukmejian also conceded that "I'm not very optimistic" about the prospects for reaching agreement on workers' compensation and prison labor, which he noted "are very high priorities for our Administration."

On the one hand, Deukmejian seemed to take pains to praise the recent relationship between him and legislative leaders as "very friendly, very personable . . . very good," and he called this a "banner year for progress," especially because of agreement on a long-range financing plan for transportation.

Deukmejian pointed out, for example, that he is "more optimistic" about passage next week of a far-reaching, compromise plan for disposing of California's mounting solid waste. But Deukmejian also subtly reminded lawmakers why they all have been working so well this year. Legislators, reeling from an FBI investigation into political corruption and stung by critics who charge they are tools of special interests, have been trying to clean up their image by enacting major pieces of legislation. At the same time, Deukmejian has been concerned about his legacy as he prepares to leave office after next year.

So the governor indirectly was urging the lawmakers to stay with the game plan--keep on the high road--until they adjourn the first half of their two-year session Sept. 15, according to a top adviser who did not want to be identified.

"What's happening is," the governor said, "there are some special interests that are not supportive of some of these proposals (and they) have been hard at work. At the present time, it appears as though they're winning. And I think that the legislators should recognize that we do have a window of opportunity here that they ought to take advantage of.

'Can Expect Criticism'

"And I think that if they fail to do so, then they can expect criticism from the public. And I think they can expect some additional (ballot) initiatives, which the public has been frowning upon and saying, in effect, that a lot of these issues ought to be addressed successfully, cooperatively here in the Capitol and not left to the initiative process. "

Deukmejian noted that the AFL-CIO is the chief special interest blocking his prison labor proposal. He also cited public employees, attorneys and some doctors as interests that "have been slicing away" at the workers' compensation agreement negotiated over a long period by organized labor, business groups and insurance companies.

He criticized the legislative sponsor of the workers' compensation measure, Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles), for "allowing so many changes in the proposal that now the original backers can hardly recognize it."

The governor's assertion that special interests "are winning" in the Capitol touched a sensitive nerve among some legislators.

"It's an interesting way to describe a personal defeat," said Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco).

Regarding workers' compensation, Margolin said: "The original bill was a poorly drafted measure negotiated behind closed doors without legislative input. The changes have been designed to protect the rights of injured workers."

Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) agreed that "there are special interests lined up on either side (of the workers' compensation issue) as high as the Empire State building." But he denied they are dictating to to lawmakers.

As for prison labor, Roberti said he will advise organized labor that "the better part of wisdom" is to compromise with the governor before he sponsors a ballot initiative that likely would be approved by voters.

During his lengthy press conference, Deukmejian also:

* Said he is endorsing Tricia Hunter of Bonita, a pro-choice Republican nominee for the Assembly in a district straddling parts of San Diego and Riverside counties. The special election is Oct. 3. Some GOP members of the Assembly are backing a Republican write-in opponent, Dick Lyles, who is anti-abortion.

Support Party Nominee

Deukmejian said he always loyally supports the party's nominee and does not think the write-in candidacy is "appropriate. . . . If he wants to challenge her, the appropriate way would be to run in the primary next year."

* Said he thinks state Insurance Commissioner Roxani Gillespie is "trying to do her best" in implementing Proposition 103. Asked if that was good enough, the governor said: "If anybody is doing their very best, that certainly is adequate as far as I'm concerned."

* Disassociated himself from a recent article written by his state parks director, Henry Agonia, who stated that parks should "begin a partnership with religious organizations" and help promote Christianity. Deukmejian said, "Our policy is that there should be separation of church and state."

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