SACRAMENTO — When a Senator decided not to ask his colleagues to vote Wednesday on a bill he co-authored with Assemblyman Steve Peace (D-Chula Vista), there was a roar of laughter in the usually decorous upper house of the state Legislature.
The reason for their amusement was the unannounced but well-known plan to kill or stall any bill written by the feisty San Diego County Democrat until he somehow makes amends to Sen. Alfred E. Alquist (D-San Jose) chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee for a loud, name-calling confrontation in a Capitol corridor on Tuesday.
Shortly after the shouting match, in which the two legislators exchanged angry words and Alquist threatened to have Peace arrested, the Senate on Tuesday retaliated by voting down a bill by Peace that would have required telephone companies to study the feasibility of having distinctive dial tones to alert customers when they are making local calls for which there is a charge.
And Wednesday, the embargo continued. Alquist, 77, the oldest member of the Legislature, told reporters, "I think Mr. Peace will have a very difficult time with any of his legislation in the Senate. . . . I'm afraid the rest of his bills will continue to have difficulty."
Meanwhile, the debate over what was said during the shouting match continued Wednesday when Peace sent a letter to Alquist, and it was not the outright apology that Senate leaders say is due the senior legislator.
Gives His Version
Peace, who maintains that the shouting was started by Alquist, said he wrote to the senator to give his version of what had transpired "while the exact comments are fresh in my mind."
Peace said he was disturbed by what he insists were erroneous reports that he had called Alquist a "senile old pedophile." To correct the record, Peace said he wanted to confirm that he really called Alquist "a pitiful little creature."
"At no time did I refer to you in a profane manner," Peace wrote. "I should not have referred to you as a 'pitiful little creature,' but those were the strongest terms I used, irrespective of what you thought you heard."
Alquist responded to Peace's letter with a two-sentence reply:
"You obviously have some very severe problems. I would suggest you immediately seek psychiatric help."
The shouting match began Tuesday after the Senate Appropriations Committee shelved, at least until next year, a $3-million appropriation sought by Peace to equip school buses for handicapped children. Peace said that he asked Alquist why the bill had been stalled in his committee and that Alquist began shouting at him.