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Assembly Backs Secession Bill Requiring City Vote

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Making a near-miraculous recovery from its defeat in the state Senate last week, a new version of the Valley secession bill passed the Assembly Friday and was immediately sent back to the Senate for consideration today--the day the Legislature adjourns for the year.

“It’s marvelous,” said Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland (R-Granada Hills), who wrote the bill, after her victory.

Friday’s 43-13 vote marked the second time in recent months that the Assembly has supported Boland’s plan to make it easier for the San Fernando Valley to secede from Los Angeles by removing the City Council’s veto power over attempts to withdraw.

But in the revised version of the bill, Boland made a key concession to opponents by including a provision for a citywide vote before an area could secede. A secession measure would have to be passed by a majority of voters in the city at large as well as in the Valley. In her original proposal, Valley voters alone would have decided the issue.

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The concession has already won new support for the measure, which Boland revived by inserting the amended version into other legislation.

Three Valley Assembly members who opposed the original bill changed their votes: Barbara Friedman (D-North Hollywood), Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) and Wally Knox (D-Los Angeles).

“While I would have liked to see some additional amendments, the fact that she put in a citywide vote made it an acceptable bill,” Friedman said Friday.

However, the measure was still vehemently opposed by some in the Assembly.

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“If it’s such a good idea, if it’s so good for democracy, why don’t we apply it to the whole state?” asked Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles). “And the answer is: It’s not such a good bill.”

The bill applies only to cities of more than 2 million people--and only Los Angeles qualifies.

More significant for the bill is new support in the Senate, the next hurdle. Two senators who opposed the original bill--Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) and Ruben Ayala (D-Chino)--now say they favor the compromise measure.

“I support the bill if it has a local, citywide election,” said Ayala. “When you have a city and take a portion of it off, the whole city suffers.”

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Boland was just two votes shy of victory in the Senate, so theoretically two votes could mean victory--if the bill makes it to the Senate floor.

As soon as the secession bill crossed his desk in the Senate, it was flagged by Secretary of the Senate Rick Rollens, who said it violated a Senate rule requiring that amendments to a bill pertain to the same subject as the bill itself.

“The amendments changed the subject of the bill and added a new subject,” Rollens said. “It will be off to Rules” for a decision on whether to waive the amendment rule or send it to another committee for hearings as the clock runs down on the legislative session.

The Senate Rules Committee is headed by Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), a foe of the bill who helped kill the initial version on the Senate floor.

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At a Rules Committee meeting late Friday night, Rollens said he would recommend that the bill be sent to a policy committee for a hearing today, though he did not specify which one. That was to be debated by the Rules Committee in the morning.

Sources said the bill would probably go to the Appropriations Committee, whose members are considered unfriendly to it.

At Los Angeles City Hall, the amendment to mandate a citywide vote got a lukewarm reception. The City Council had voted 8 to 6 to oppose the previous version of the Boland bill.

Opponents of that version said they like the amendment but still have reservations about the bill.

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Council President John Ferraro, who has lobbied against the bill, said he would also like to see Boland add another amendment requiring a study of the impacts of secession, as has been proposed by Lockyer.

“The Valley and the city should know what a secession would mean,” Ferraro said.

Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, another opponent of the bill, agreed with Ferraro that a study should be required before a secession vote.

“I think it would be criminal for the Valley to be sold a bill of goods . . . without knowing the cost when the bill comes due,” she said. “It would be like buying a pig in a poke.”

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Ronald Deaton, the city’s chief legislative analyst, said the citywide-vote amendment was the most important concession Boland could make to the council, but the city remains officially opposed to the bill unless it also includes a study on the impacts of secession and will apply to all cities in the state.

“The bill is not as objectionable as it was,” he said. “The change is a victory for the city.”

However, Councilman Mike Feuer, who also voted against the bill, said he is content with the citywide vote provision and does not feel strongly about requiring a study.

Councilman Joel Wachs, who supported the Boland bill, said that the amendment represents a big victory for the city and that if any city leaders continue to oppose the bill, “that casts doubt on their sincerity.”

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Mayor Richard Riordan, who has taken no official position on the bill, opposes the amendment, saying the Valley and any other part of the city should have the right to decide its own future, according to his spokeswoman, Noelia Rodriguez.

But instead of seceding from the city, Riordan said, Valley residents should support his effort to rewrite the city’s 71-year-old charter to streamline government and give more power to the citizens.


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