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Workfare Passes; Toxic Plan Loses : Seat Belt Law, Prison Construction Voted as Legislature Adjourns for '85

September 15, 1985|RICHARD C. PADDOCK and LEO C. WOLINSKY | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — The Legislature adjourned for the year shortly before dawn Saturday after approving a major revision of the state welfare system, legislation requiring all motorists to wear seat belts and an emergency plan to build more prison cells .

In a fit of pique over Republican lawmakers' refusal to approve a minor Medi-Cal measure, Assembly Democrats for the second time this year rejected Gov. George Deukmejian's plan to create a new state agency to control toxic waste.

In retaliation against Deukmejian's refusal to adopt strong state sanctions against South Africa, the Assembly also shelved a plan backed by the Republican governor that would have given foreign multinational corporations a $250 million tax break.

And Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), accusing Deukmejian of attempting to push through long-range prison projects in the guise of emergency expansion, refused to approve a penitentiary two miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

Governor's Response

At a press conference Saturday, Deukmejian praised lawmakers for approving the work-for-welfare and prison measures he had sought and said he would sign the seat belt bill.

However, Deukmejian lashed out at Brown and the Assembly Democrats for being "totally irresponsible and arrogant" and said, "This kind of political extortion has to come to an end."

In the predawn hours Saturday, the Legislature reached a state of gridlock as leaders of both houses and lawmakers from both parties maneuvered to win passage of pet measures.

Stopping the clock at midnight--the agreed-upon deadline for adjournment--both houses crammed decisions on some of the year's most important issues into the last few hours of the 1985 session.

Both Democratic-controlled houses repeatedly waived their own procedural rules and at one point held a series of brief committee hearings to rubber stamp deals cut between legislative leaders and the governor.

The Senate ground to a halt at 4 a.m. while the Assembly stayed in session until 5:30 a.m., adjourning in a daze of self-congratulatory speeches.

The Legislature approved a bipartisan workfare compromise that would require able-bodied welfare recipients to work, receive job training or go to school in order to receive benefit checks.

Democratic leaders and the governor, in a last-minute compromise, linked passage of workfare to Deukmejian's approval of a major new state child-care program serving both welfare and working families.

The governor's agreement to spend state funds for the first time on child care for working parents represented a major concession to Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles).

Deukmejian, who had proposed spending $63 million annually on child care solely for workfare parents, agreed to devote a total of $134 million annually for a new child-care program which also will serve non-welfare families. Additionally, the governor agreed to spend $36 million to develop new state-administered child-care centers for children of all families.

To push the compromise through, Roberti ordered the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to meet and approve the bill without permitting the panel to make any amendments to the workfare plan.

Called 'Forced Labor'

Despite an emotional plea from Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) to block "forced labor" for welfare recipients, the Senate approved the workfare measure by a 32-2 vote and sent it to the Assembly, where it passed, 59 to 8, at about 4 a.m..

Meanwhile, the Assembly passed, 56 to 12, a bill by Roberti containing the child care funds and sent the measure to the Senate, where it quickly was approved, 34 to 0.

Deukmejian on Saturday praised the Legislature's action and called the package a "landmark mandatory program" that will "break the cycle of dependency."

But the governor's toxic plan fell victim to partisan wrangling after it was held hostage by Rules Committee Chairman Louis Papan (D-Millbrae) in an unsuccessful bid to win Republican support for a bill he was sponsoring to provide $3 million so that aged, blind and disabled people could keep more of their own income and still be eligible for Medi-Cal.

Retaliation by Brown

The toxic bill, which would have reorganized the state's handling of toxic waste, had been expected to easily win passage in the Assembly after it had sailed out of the Senate early Friday on a 30-8 vote. But Brown never called for an Assembly vote on the plan because Republicans blocked passage of Papan's bill.

Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale called Papan a "petty tyrant" and, explaining the GOP action, declared, "We've finally said we've had enough."

But in doing that, Republicans went against the wishes of the governor, who privately had encouraged them to vote for the Papan bill so his toxic plan could pass.

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