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Wilson Calls for Unified Crime Bill : Politics: Governor charges that the Senate is trying to embarrass him by advocating five conflicting measures.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. Pete Wilson urged legislators Wednesday to iron out the conflicts among five crime bills before sending the legislation to his desk.

Wilson, complaining that the state Senate is playing politics in an effort to embarrass him, said he wants legislation that mirrors the “three strikes and you’re out” initiative that is on its way to the November ballot.

In addition, the Republican governor said, the Legislature should send him other bills with provisions that are even tougher than the proposed ballot measure, including a law that would send two-time rapists, child molesters and arsonists to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

But Wilson said he wants these proposals sent to him in a way that blends the most stringent parts of all the bills. He criticized a recent Senate maneuver that would prevent him from doing that.

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“We have the opportunity to give the public all the protection it needs,” Wilson told reporters in his office. “We shouldn’t play political games.”

After a meeting with five state assemblymen who are carrying the legislation, Wilson seemed to be making some headway in advance of a showdown scheduled for the Senate floor this morning.

Among those conferring with the governor was Republican Assemblyman Richard Rainey of Walnut Creek, a former county sheriff who is pushing a competing bill that is narrower than the “three strikes” initiative.

The proposed ballot initiative and a bill that parallels it would require a life term for anyone convicted of a felony after committing two serious or violent felonies and one other felony of any kind. Conceivably, a two-time loser who wrote a bad check could face life in prison under the measure.

In contrast, Rainey’s bill would trigger a life sentence only if the third crime were also a serious or violent felony.

The initiative, circulated by a Fresno man whose daughter was killed by a repeat felon, apparently has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The sponsor, Mike Reynolds, said Wednesday that he was submitting signatures in 40 counties and planned to wait until Monday, his deadline, to file the final petitions while watching progress of the bills moving through the Legislature.

Rainey’s competing measure has the backing of many prosecutors and judges who fear that the Reynolds initiative would overwhelm the criminal justice system and needlessly crowd the prisons with nonviolent, elderly inmates.

Legislative leaders have made it clear in recent days that their members are loathe to vote against the original “three strikes” bill or any of the similar measures that carry the same name. That is why five bills that include some competing provisions are on the fast track toward the governor’s desk.

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Wilson said earlier that he was prepared to sign all of the bills and let the courts sort out the differences.

But a Senate committee on Monday added amendments to four of the bills that would automatically repeal all but the last one Wilson signs. And that bill would be repealed if the voters passed the “three strikes” initiative in the fall.


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