Responding to critics who accuse him of once again trying to engineer the defeat of San Fernando Valley secession legislation, Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward) predicted Thursday that a bill on the subject will pass the Legislature this session and said he will vote for it.
Lockyer, in an interview, insisted that backers and foes of the measure are wrong to conclude that a newly added amendment that makes any secession law apply statewide will cause the measure to go down to defeat.
Both sides believe that applying the change across California will turn legislators against the bill because of the potential impact it might have in their own cities.
The Senate Local Government Committee added the amendment to two Assembly bills Wednesday. They were proposed by Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), one of the measure’s chief foes whom Lockyer named to the panel Monday.
“The irony here is both sides think something has been done to make the measure die,” Lockyer said. “My own view is this is an improved measure that will eventually become law.”
This was the first time Lockyer committed his own vote to an Assembly bill co-sponsored by two San Fernando Valley Assembly members, Tom McClintock (R-Northridge) and Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks).
Lockyer does not back a second Assembly bill authored by Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Sylmar) because it does not call for a citywide vote on secession.
The Senate leader tabled his own secession bill last month, causing a furor among secession legislation supporters in the Valley who felt he abandoned them in midstream. At the time, Lockyer said he withdrew his bill because of pressure from the Democratic caucus to stay out of a local issue.
But Lockyer said Thursday that his bill is only held in abeyance and is available “for discussion next year"--the second year of the session--if it is needed.
“I dropped it in the sense that I withdrew it from current debate,” Lockyer said.
While many Valley activists blasted the Senate Democratic chief Wednesday, one leader of a group lobbying for secession law said it is more clear now than ever that Lockyer is the key to success.
“Once again he will be the hero or the villain,” said Richard Close, co-chairman of Valley VOTE.
The proposed bill would facilitate secession by eliminating the City Council veto power over breakaway efforts.
Although he is a Northern Californian, Lockyer got involved in the debate last year when then-Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland raised the issue. Amid an election year fight over a state Senate seat Boland sought, the two lawmakers battled all summer. Lockyer ultimately killed the bill and Boland lost the election to Lockyer protege Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).
The key to Lockyer’s support for the McClintock-Hertzberg bill is that it keeps the newly added amendment to have the change in the law apply to all California cities, not just Los Angeles as had previously been proposed. Lockyer also insists on a state-funded study of the impacts of secession.