SACRAMENTO — Legislation to provide funds to halt the Portuguese Bend landslide encountered almost as many twists and turns as the Palos Verdes coastline before lawmakers finally approved it Saturday, just before adjourning for the year.
Approval of the legislation, which provides $2 million to stabilize the slide, capped a seven-month lobbying effort by Rancho Palos Verdes city officials.
"We're obviously delighted," said City Manager Donald Guluzzy, who figured he had flown to Sacramento at least eight times since March to lobby for a bill carried by Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro).
Prospects for the bill seemed dim after the Assembly rejected it last Wednesday. Furthermore, Felando, whose 51st District includes the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was unable to push for the bill because he was hospitalized at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, where he had surgery to remove a kidney stone.
But, as Felando noted from his hospital bed on Monday, "the opera's not over until the fat lady sings."
Bill Near Legislative Death
The bill was revived on Friday and ultimately approved, illustrating how a proposal near legislative death can be resuscitated, even in the closing hours before adjournment.
The bill almost failed to get off the ground because of differences between Felando and city officials over the wording. They hammered out a compromise before the bill's first committee hearing.
Initially, Felando sought a $6-million grant from the state. About $2 million would have been used for stabilizing the slide by building drainage facilities and grading the land. The remaining $4 million would have been for a sea wall.
But in May, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee approved only a loan of $2 million for stabilization.
By late June, another committee had changed it back to a $2-million grant. And after Felando spent hours twisting colleague' arms, the bill squeaked through by a 55-18 margin, just one more vote than was necessary for approval.
Oil Revenues Tapped
The Senate later changed the bill, earmarking the $2 million from the state's anticipated share of federal offshore oil revenues, instead of general funds.
With that amendment, the bill was returned to the Assembly for final passage last week.
During a lively 10-minute debate, lawmakers assailed the measure as setting a poor precedent. They argued that the funds would be used to make repairs that would have little, if any, benefit to the state. The bill failed to muster the necessary two-thirds vote.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Jack O'Connell (D-Carpinteria) included $2 million for the landslide work in a "mini-budget" bill that split up $375 million in federal offshore oil revenues. The exact amount of the windfall has been disputed, but all sides agree the state will get at least $375 million.
The O'Connell bill set aside money to fix potholes, establish child-care centers and take care of lawmakers' pet projects, such as the landslide work.
Still, the issue was far from resolved. In fact, an agreement between lawmakers and the Deukmejian Administration on the split almost collapsed.
Republicans in the Assembly balked at approving it until Democrats would approve a Los Angeles prison site. Ultimately, the GOP lawmakers backed down and approved the O'Connell spending package.
And, as if to boost the ailing Felando's spirits, they also approved his bill by a 61-12 margin, authorizing the expenditure.
Felando speculated that Democrats tucked his project and others sought by GOP lawmakers into the O'Connell bill to persuade Republican Gov. George Deukmejian to sign the measure. The governor's office indicated he has approved the list of projects in the O'Connell measure.
Even if the governor signs the legislation, the money would not be available until early next year at the earliest.
Whenever the money is received, City Manager Guluzzy said, "we'd act as quickly as possible. The faster we do it, the better."