SACRAMENTO — In an apparent effort to quell an uprising among Senate Democrats, President Pro Tem David A. Roberti reportedly decided Wednesday on a major shake-up of committee assignments.
The Los Angeles Democrat confirmed that a reorganization of committees is under way, but he declined to specify the legislators involved. He indicated that he will make an announcement today after a closed-door session of the Senate Rules Committee.
However, legislative sources said veteran Sen. Alfred E. Alquist (D-San Jose) agreed to give up control of one of the two budget committees he heads and that he will be replaced as chairman of the Appropriations Committee by Sen. Daniel E. Boatwright (D-Concord). Boatwright is chairman of the Revenue and Taxation Committee.
In line to replace Boatwright as head of the Revenue and Taxation Committee is Sen. Wadie P. Deddeh (D-Chula Vista), sources said. Deddeh now is chairman of the Public Employment and Retirement Committee.
Both Deddeh and Boatwright, while Roberti supporters, are key members of a group of moderate-to-conservative Democratic senators who announced two weeks ago that they were forming their own coalition to counter what they say is the liberal slant of Roberti's leadership team.
The bloc of seven Democrats said they planned to vote with the Senate's 14 Republicans on certain bills--thus forming on occasion a 21-vote majority in the 40-member house and posing a political problem for Roberti.
The coalition formed just a few days after Sen. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), expressing what he said was widespread criticism among lawmakers of Roberti's leadership of the Democratic caucus, made an unsuccessful attempt to oust Roberti as leader.
Boatwright, while refusing to confirm the reports that he will replace Alquist as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, insisted during an interview that the committee shake-ups had nothing to do with the leadership fight.
However, he acknowledged that one of the complaints against Roberti was that there were no moderates or conservatives on his leadership team and that such a promotion to the Appropriations Committee would satisfy at least some of that criticism.
Reports of the impending shake-up began circulating in the Capitol on Wednesday after a closed-door breakfast meeting of the 26 Senate Democrats in Roberti's office. Afterward, several said they were encouraged by what appeared to be a new direction in Roberti's leadership.
Boatwright, who once headed the Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly, said he had long desired the Appropriations Committee chairmanship. "I want and I've wanted this committee," he said.
Deddeh confirmed that discussions were under way but said he will have no comment until after formal decisions are made this morning at the Rules Committee meeting.
Situation Called 'Calm'
Roberti acknowledged that changes will be made, but he described the situation within the Democratic caucus as "calm."
The Democratic leader described the actions expected to be announced today as "not enormous changes, but probably significant ones."
Roberti is also faced with finding a new chairman of the Local Government Committee. The chairman is now Sen. Milton Marks (D-San Francisco), who was elevated to the post of chairman of the Democratic Caucus earlier this month after he switched registration from Republican to Democrat. It was Marks' move onto the Democratic leadership team that triggered Garamendi's bid for president pro tem and led to criticism of Roberti among other Democrats.
One problem that Roberti said he did not have was finding a new chairman of the Transportation Committee. That committee has been headed for years by Sen. John F. Foran (D-San Francisco), who announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection. Roberti said he plans to keep Foran in charge of that committee until he leaves office. "He has one more full year of active duty," Roberti said.
Alquist will also continue to chair the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, sources said.