Lawmakers Swap Jabs Over Quake Aid


Criticizing the use of public funds to aid Los Angeles earthquake victims, a Republican lawmaker Monday challenged his colleagues to give their state-paid daily expense check of $101 to private charities supplying quake relief.

“We are not authorized to use $1 of (direct) taxpayer dollars for charitable purposes,” said Sen. Don Rogers, a well-known conservative whose district includes quake-damaged areas in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Rogers acknowledged that his $101 gift--the per diem every lawmaker receives while the Legislature is in session--”is not a lot,” but still called on his 119 colleagues to join him in donating their personal funds, not campaign money. Such a donation by lawmakers would raise $12,120.


His call for charity, made at a legislative hearing, prompted an angry response from Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles). He chided Rogers for making “a symbolic gesture” that still leaves the state billions of dollars short of the estimated funds needed to rebuild Los Angeles.

In an interview, Margolin said: “Government is expected to respond to a disaster, and it means not only putting the schools and freeways back in place, but making sure that individuals are taken care of.”

The verbal exchange at a joint Assembly and Senate hearing on earthquake insurance underscores the emotional debate in the Capitol as lawmakers grapple with how to provide aid to rebuild Los Angeles and prepare for disasters throughout the state.

The three-hour hearing was televised statewide and provided an overview of quake damage and the response from state agencies and insurance companies.

As the hearing opened, Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the Senate Insurance, Claims and Corporations Committee, urged his colleagues to back a bill he characterized as the “Homeowners Bill of Rights.”

His bill would require insurance firms to send policyholders complete information spelling out the details of their homeowner policies and their rights in case of an earthquake, flood or fire.


After Torres touted his plan, Rogers launched into his call for caution in starting new government programs to aid quake survivors. He decried “the pell-mell rush to throw tax dollars” to repair damage.

After being assailed by Margolin, Rogers seemed to soften his position, saying he supported the concept of using tax dollars to rebuild highways and schools. But he branded public funds going to individuals as an unconstitutional gift of taxpayer money.