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Assembly Takes Rogers’ Name Off Bill : Politics: Action on flood control proposal seeks to overcome animosity over appearance before suspected racist group.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a rare move, the Assembly on Tuesday stripped a bill by Sen. Don Rogers of his name in an effort to overcome animosity triggered by his appearance last weekend before a group of suspected racists.

With Rogers listed as its author, the otherwise mundane bill to create a flood control district in the Antelope Valley was headed nowhere, Assembly members said.

Assemblyman William J. (Pete) Knight (R-Palmdale), who sponsored an amendment replacing Rogers as author with state Sen. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno), said he was asked to do so by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco).

Knight said he was told by Brown that the bill stood no chance of winning Democratic votes as long as it bore Rogers’ name.

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“It was suggested by the Speaker primarily because the leaders of the Democratic Party were concerned about the speech that Sen. Rogers gave in Bakersfield,” Knight said.

Brown refused comment. But in addressing the Assembly immediately after the unusual parliamentary move, he told members that making Maddy the author allowed it to “be taken up on its merits. . . . Clearly you removed the liability of Rogers.”

Rogers, who represents portions of the Antelope Valley, was the featured speaker Saturday night at the fourth annual Jubilation Celebration and Conference at a Red Lion hotel in Bakersfield. The event was sponsored by a California-based newspaper called The Jubilee, which is the leading national publication for the Christian Identity movement.

According to watchdog groups that monitor extreme right-wing groups, the movement promotes the belief that Northern European descendants are superior to people of color.

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In answering criticism about his appearance, Rogers said he spoke to the group, whom he knew only to be “patriotic Americans,” about the need to reaffirm states’ rights. The Tehachapi Republican said he does not condone racism.

Rogers said he supported the move to take his name off the flood control district bill, if that is what was needed to get his bill passed by the Assembly.

“I heard that some Democrats were disgruntled because of the Jubilee thing, and I guess they thought they were going to chastise me,” he said. “I’m elated. It’s one less bill for me to worry about.

“My reaction is that it seemed rather childish, but no one has ever accused the Legislature of being mature.”

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Meanwhile, members of the legislative Black Caucus were moving toward holding talks with Rogers. “We just have to have conversations,” said Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles).

As to whether Rogers has damaged his effectiveness as a legislator--at least in the Assembly--Moore said, “I think that clearly is the message that one hopes to send.”

With Rogers’ name off the bill, Assembly members voted Tuesday to grant it a vote today, on the final day of the session. The bill places before voters the question of whether a flood control district should be formed in the Antelope Valley.

Rogers said such a district is needed because heavy winter rains cause rapid runoff, flooding roads and the grounds of Edwards Air Force Base. If voters approve forming a district, they would be assessed a fee to help pay for flood control projects.

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“It’s a problem that needs to be resolved,” he said.

But Rogers did not seem alarmed that the bill he deemed important enough to usher through most of the Legislature would no longer carry his name. He has already won approval of the bill in the Senate. “It doesn’t bother me at all,” he said.

Of his address to the Jubilee gathering, Rogers said, “I was in charge of the agenda and in no way endorsed their issues. I never figured it was my place to force everyone to pass a litmus test before I speak to them.”


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