SACRAMENTO — Legislation containing a controversial amendment to block a new Orange County jail near Anaheim Stadium and Disneyland was approved Wednesday by a key Assembly committee.
However, in a compromise intended to stave off a threatened veto, the panel stripped away provisions of a $495-million bond allocation bill that would have given Los Angeles and San Diego County cities veto power over potential new jail sites within their boundaries.
The compromise, written by Assemblyman Steve Peace (D-Chula Vista), says that county boards of supervisors must adopt master plans regarding jails and prisons and give consideration to over-saturation in certain neighborhoods when choosing sites for new correctional facilities.
Peace's compromise was praised by a key adviser to Gov. George Deukmejian and by Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), the bill's author, who said it removed Deukmejian's major objection.
"It was like a love fest," said Presley, following the 23-0 vote in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.
A lobbyist for the Orange County Board of Supervisors said there may still be an attempt to remove the so-called "Mickey Mouse" amendment by Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove) that blocked the Anaheim jail site. That action might take place before the measure is sent to the governor--perhaps in a two-house conference committee, the lobbyist said.
Restrictions Might Stay
But Stephen Blankenship, deputy secretary of Deukmejian's cabinet-level Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, said it appeared that the Orange County restrictions might stay in the bill.
"The Orange County people are going to have to make their case to the governor," said Blankenship. "We'll just let each side make its case."
Robinson, who angered the Orange County Board of Supervisors when he added the restriction to the measure last month, savored Wednesday's committee action as at least a preliminary victory. Although he is not a member of the Ways and Means panel, he attended its hearing Wednesday and defended the provision during debate over Presley's bill.
Robinson said he would allow Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim) to deal with any appeal to the governor, should it pass the Legislature and reach the governor's desk. Seymour is a strong backer of the jail restriction.
"We make a very effective team," Robinson quipped, alluding to Seymour's potential influence as chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus.
Presley's bill, which now goes to the full Assembly, outlines how the $495 million in bond money approved by 67% of California voters last month will be divided among the state's 58 counties.
'Back Room Deal'
State legislators, more accustomed to fighting over money than the locations of new jails, added all three provisions dealing with local jail-siting controversies during a hearing last month before the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
First, Robinson introduced a narrowly constructed amendment to eliminate the proposed site at Katella Avenue and Douglass Road, directly across the Orange Freeway from Anaheim Stadium. He accused the Orange County supervisors of having made a "back room deal" to force a new jail on Anaheim.
Then, Assemblyman Larry Stirling (R-San Diego), upset that San Diego supervisors had ordered an environmental impact report for a new men's jail in Santee, added an amendment that said that any of the county's 17 city councils would have to give approval before supervisors could site any jail within a city's boundaries. Santee officials strongly object to the city being the site of a new jail.
Finally, Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles) added a provision identical to Stirling's for the more than 80 cities in Los Angeles County.
Presley said during the hearing last month that the provisions dealing with local land-use squabbles were unusual for a jail bond allocation bill, but he did not strenuously object.
Within hours of the action, however, word circulated around the Capitol that Deukmejian would veto the measure if it reached his desk with the siting language still in it.
Backers of the provisions, noting that a veto would delay the sale of bonds and the distribution of badly needed jail-construction funds to 52 counties receiving money under the Presley bill, suggested that Deukmejian might be bluffing.
But Presley said last month that he was taking the threat of a veto seriously. "I haven't known this governor to bluff, have you?" he asked.
Peace said his compromise seemed like "a reasonable way to approach the concerns people have from all sides."
"It is the kind of statewide policy that should have been put into law years ago," he added.