County's Lawmakers Chalk Up Good Year : Delegation: Area's two state senators and three Assembly members got a higher percentage of bills signed into law in '93 than the Legislature as a whole.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One freshman lawmaker marched to the Capitol with his head full of old-fashioned ideas about good work habits--such as starting meetings on time and behaving in a businesslike manner.

Another lawmaker made it easier for latchkey children to find day care. Two others tackled a necessary evil in these troubled times--a pair of new laws to ensure that students carrying weapons get kicked out of school.

And all five members of the Ventura County delegation used the 1993 legislative year to help streamline state regulations, offer tax breaks and other financial assistance to big and small businesses.

Taken together on a percentage basis, the two state senators and three Assembly members who represent parts of Ventura County got more bills signed into law--with 39% of their measures ascending into the legal code--than the Legislature did as a whole. Of the more than 4,000 bills authored this year in the Assembly and Senate, only 35% became law.

But tallying how many bills were written, passed by colleagues and signed by Gov. Pete Wilson, is just one measure of a lawmaker's effectiveness. And since it's only halfway through the two-year legislative session, members point out they still have time to wrap up various projects when they return to the Capitol in January.

Until then, a glance back reveals a year spiced with the drama of the political revolving door syndrome, as prominent Democratic Sen. Gary K. Hart of Santa Barbara declared he will leave public service for now, and Assemblyman Jack O'Connell (D-Carpinteria) quickly announced he is gunning for Hart's seat.

Meanwhile, newcomers Nao Takasugi in the Assembly and Cathie Wright in the Senate settled in to make their marks.

Legislative landmarks of the year include incentives to boost California's economy, workers' compensation reform and the on-time passage of the state budget--efforts that all five members said they supported.

Here is a look at the highlights of the 1993 legislative year for members of the Ventura County delegation.

Jack O'Connell, Assemblyman

Looking for common-sense solutions to the problem of latchkey children left home unsupervised, O'Connell managed to extend the life and scope of a pilot program that allows placement of school-age children in family day-care homes.

The program, scheduled to fold in December, was extended in Ventura and Placer counties for two more years and expanded to include three other California counties. It allows at-home licensed day-care providers to take in two additional school-age children.

O'Connell also led the legislative effort that placed Proposition 170, a school construction bond measure, on the Nov. 2 ballot. Although the proposition failed, O'Connell vowed to work harder to achieve Proposition 170's goal: setting aside the century-old law that requires a two-thirds majority of local voters to approve the sale of bonds to finance construction of classrooms.

Responding to California's changing economy, O'Connell also helped free funds to eventuallyturn Vandenberg Air Force Base into a "spaceport" for firms that make rocket parts and other commercial space components. The $300,000 O'Connell earmarked in the state budget is intended to improve the base's infrastructure.

One setback for O'Connell involved the veto of a bill he wrote after a California condor died of apparent antifreeze poisoning. The so-called "bitter bill" would have required the makers of such lethal substances to lace their products with bittering agents to repel children and animals. "I was disappointed the governor vetoed that," O'Connell said. "In my opinion, he made a mistake."

O'Connell, 42, who as speaker pro tem has presided over the Assembly's floor sessions since early 1991, also got the deadline lifted for California's gifted and talented pupil program.

The former high school teacher says he will keep pressing for "community-oriented" legislation when he returns to the Capitol in January. In the meantime, he will campaign for Hart's Senate seat and hold office hours in his Assembly district that includes Ventura, Santa Paula, Ojai and most of Santa Barbara County.

Of 18 bills O'Connell authored, 16 were passed by the Legislature. Thirteen were signed into law by the governor.

Nao Takasugi, Assemblyman

One of the first pieces of advice this freshman Republican lawmaker received upon arriving at the Capitol, he recalled, was: "Hey, Takasugi, the biggest waste of time in the Legislature is to be on time."

That was his first clue something was amiss in the Legislature, Takasugi said. A meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. might not begin until 11:30 a.m., which convinced the former Oxnard mayor that the sluggish system needed reforming.

"I certainly came home on a high note," Takasugi said. "One of the important features we were able to accomplish, after last year's budget debacle--in which the budget was 64 days overdue--was to see that it was not repeated this year." Takasugi said he also joined a special Assembly committee formed to urge legislators to start meetings on time.

Takasugi sponsored several bills that became law, including one that created a sales-tax break for businesses that buy mailing lists, another that frees at least $100 million for state coffers by allowing tax disputes to go to mediation instead of court, and a third that gives workers more flexibility to take their comp time.

Upon his return in January to what Takasugi calls "the convoluted system of the Legislature," he plans to press for passage of another 15 bills he has authored. At the head of his list is a land-use measure that limits the amount of time a developer has to wait before a plan for construction is approved or rejected.

"All in all, we are trying to make California a business-friendly state, the Golden State it was meant to be," he said.

Takasugi represents the 37th Assembly District that includes his native Oxnard and most of Thousand Oaks, Port Hueneme, Camarillo and Moorpark.

Of 17 bills Takasugi authored, five were passed by the Legislature. All five were signed into law.

Paula Boland, Assemblywoman

Championing the cause of sex-crime victims, the Republican legislator got the law changed to enable victims to file criminal complaints without any statute of limitations.

Boland also pushed through a law, effective immediately, that requires schools to suspend and recommend expulsion of all students who bring weapons to campus or to school activities.

Another new law by Boland allows jurors to keep their identities secret and stemmed from a case of juror harassment after the Simi Valley trial of four Los Angeles police officers charged with beating Rodney King.

Although based in Granada Hills, Boland, 53, a real estate broker, serves a district that expands well into Ventura County, including all of Simi Valley, Fillmore and some eastern portions of Thousand Oaks. One of her top priorities for next year, she says, is to bring Ventura County "further business relief from government over-regulation."

Boland also said she hopes for additional reform of the workers' compensation system and will continue to press for the breakup of the massive Los Angeles Unified School District, an issue that became stalled in the Legislature this year.

Calling her colleagues' failure to jump on the breakup bandwagon "a tremendous disappointment," Boland said the Los Angeles school district absorbs so much funding through inefficient management that it takes away from other school districts.

Boland also plans to continue on a law-and-order bent that saw her sign up as a co-author on legislation to crack down on graffiti and make carjacking a new crime.

Of 33 bills Boland authored, nine were passed by the Legislature. All nine were signed into law.

Gary K. Hart, State Senator

Perhaps the Senate's most respected legislative specialist in the field of education, former teacher Hart stayed true to tradition and wrote a number of measures to benefit higher and secondary education.

Some did not succeed, such as one vetoed by Wilson that would have authorized local communities to increase school funding through a majority--instead of two-thirds--vote. Hart legislative aide Karin Caves called the veto "a big disappointment" for him, made worse because it was Hart's second run at the bill and he had lobbied heavily for the governor's signature.

Like Boland, Hart also authored a law to remove from campus students who carry firearms. His measure, however, requires automatic expulsion of those students and goes into effect in January.

Hart also pushed new laws permitting courts to phase in child support payments in cases of financial hardship and stiffening requirements for the recycled content of plastic trash bags. He also created the California Defense Conversion Council to go after federal funds to ease the pain of base closures.

A veteran legislator elected to the Assembly in 1974 and the Senate in 1982, Hart said he is saddened by recent allegations of Senate corruption aired during the Sacramento trial of former state Sen. Paul Carpenter and lobbyist Clayton Jackson.

"These trials are painful and an embarrassment to the institution. We have to do a better job of policing our ranks," Hart said.

Hart, 50, has announced he is stepping down next year to spend more time with his family. He represents the 18th Senate District, redrawn in 1992 to include Ventura, Santa Paula and the Ojai Valley. It also stretches north to include all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Of the 27 bills Hart authored, 13 were passed by the Legislature. Eleven were signed into law.

Cathie Wright, State Senator

In her first year in the Senate after a decade in the Assembly, Wright wrote a number of measures making it easier for some types of businesses to conform to hazardous waste control laws or win exemption from the laws altogether.

Among those signed by the governor were bills exempting ground water treatment facilities and laundry facilities from the requirement that the operations obtain special hazardous waste permits.

Wright said her quest to simplify the permitting process will carry over into 1994, as she continues to go through a two-inch-thick law requiring hazardous waste handling permits from a range of enterprises.

"We are streamlining the permitting rules to make them much more efficient and less costly for business," she said. "I'm dealing with some real, hard concerns for business and listening to the environmental community too. There's a way to do both."

The senator also played a key role in protecting some local special districts from the state's property tax shift last summer, including certain fire protection districts and those that straddle more than one county.

Wright, 64, a former insurance underwriter, said she will also aim to identify other ways to help small businesses. She represents the 19th Senate District, which encompasses the cities of Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Oxnard, Camarillo, Moorpark, Port Hueneme, Fillmore and western portions of Los Angeles County.

Of 37 bills Wright authored, 15 passed the Legislature and 14 were signed into law.

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