Proposed bill could keep fairgrounds public

The window is small, but state lawmakers are working to get a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk by September that would enable revenue-sharing for the Orange County Fairgrounds and possibly keep the property in public hands.

With a 9-0 vote Wednesday, the state Assembly's Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection passed Assembly Bill 35. Introduced by Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim), A.B. 35 creates legal language for the O.C. Fair Board to share revenue with the state, should the fairgrounds remain in the board's hands.

"At this point we want to be cooperative with the governor's office," Solorio said Wednesday. "We demonstrated in a very bipartisan fashion that there's cooperation to preserve the fairgrounds. That's a big message."

As of now, there are few details in the bill. Legislators are approving the broad idea that the state's fairgrounds can remain public and the state can see some financial returns to help state finances, officials in Solorio's office said.

A framework for a deal that would keep the 150-acre property in Costa Mesa public would likely be created in the state Senate, where it could land by June 3. The bill could be on Brown's desk by Sept. 9.

Brown should see A.B. 35's approval Tuesday as a sign that it could be time to pull the plug on a private sale of the fairgrounds to Facilities Management West. A $100-million deal that would see the Newport Beach-based company repay the state over 35 years is currently stuck in the state Court of Appeal.

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