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Valley Secession Backers Consider State Initiative

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Frustrated by their ever-shifting fortunes in Sacramento, proponents of San Fernando Valley secession legislation are drawing up a plan to take their case directly to voters with a statewide initiative that would eliminate the veto power of city councils over secession.

Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) said he and Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Northridge), coauthors of Valley secession legislation, were to iron out details during the weekend.

Although a final decision has not been made on a title, there is already a working name for the initiative--the Local Government Independence Act, sources said.

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The McClintock-Hertzberg bill suffered a key setback in Sacramento this past week when it was amended with what some say is a “poison pill” stipulation that could hinder its chances of passage.

That stipulation makes proposed changes in municipal secession law applicable statewide; the McClintock-Hertzberg bill applied to Los Angeles only.

Some fear that the statewide application would kill the bill’s chances because legislators outside Los Angeles would worry about its impact on their cities.

A statewide initiative would put McClintock and Hertzberg in the driver’s seat instead of powerful state Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), whose mixed messages have left proponents unsure of his commitment.

“An initiative changes the table stakes,” Hertzberg said. “It changes the negotiations.”

In response, Lockyer said the initiative strategy “seems like an odd thing to do when you are on the verge of victory.” Trying to pressure legislators with the threat of an initiative will probably have the opposite effect, he said. “That would probably cause the immediate death of the bill,” Lockyer said.

However, one appeal of an initiative is that it gives backers a chance to write the law they want, rather than having to settle for compromises over such issues as who would vote on secession.

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The co-chairman of Valley VOTE, Sherman Oaks homeowner leader Richard Close, confirmed that his group may be involved in launching an initiative, although he still hopes that the Legislature will enact the bill.

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