SACRAMENTO — On a straight party-line vote, a Democratic-dominated Assembly committee Wednesday approved a drastically amended $150-million toxics bond measure over Republican warnings that Gov. George Deukmejian would reject it.
The bond proposal took on special significance, because it was part of a package agreed upon by Republican and Democratic Assembly leaders that would place $2.3 billion in general obligation bonds for schools, prisons and environmental protection before voters Nov. 4.
However, the failure to achieve bipartisan agreement on the toxics proposal put all the bond measures in jeopardy.
Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) made clear to reporters that without agreement on toxics this week, the seven other bond proposals in the package would fail to win approval in the Assembly.
"It's all one package," Brown told reporters outside a hearing room, where the toxics measure was being considered.
Republican Assemblyman Ernie Konnyu of Saratoga, meanwhile, made it equally clear that without Republican votes, the toxics measure would never clear the Assembly--and that Republicans intended to vote against it.
Konnyu and other Republican members of the Assembly Toxics Committee objected to last-minute Democratic amendments that, among other things, would require industry to pay higher fees to repay the bonds.
The author of the Deukmejian-backed toxics proposal, Sen. Becky Morgan (R-Los Altos Hills), was so angry at the amendments that she announced she would no longer carry the bill.
However, the committee Democrats charged ahead and approved the bill against solid Republican opposition.
In order to qualify for the November ballot, the bond proposal must clear two other Assembly committees today, as well as the full Assembly and Senate, before it can be sent on to Deukmejian for action.
The Legislature is scheduled to begin a monthlong recess after today, and under normal procedures, action on all the proposed measures must be completed before the lawmakers leave.
Democrats told reporters that the hazardous waste bonds measure was especially important to Deukmejian in an election year, when his Democratic opponent, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, has repeatedly accused the governor of failing to aggressively clean up toxic waste.
In a message to the Legislature in May, Deukmejian called for a $200-million bond measure that would add funds for cleaning up toxic dump sites and provide grants and loans to develop new technology for eliminating land disposal of untreated hazardous waste.
Last week, however, Democrats in the Assembly Toxics Committee picked apart the Deukmejian proposal, arguing that the spending plan was too vague and that taxpayers, rather than polluters, would wind up repaying most of the bonds.
They proposed instead a smaller, $100-million bond measure.
On Wednesday, however, Brown and Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale agreed to a compromise $150-million program--part of a larger agreement that included the seven other bond issues that would be tied together in the package, Brown said.
Despite the agreement on the package, Republican committee members warned later that as a result of the amendments, the toxics program contained elements that Deukmejian had rejected in the past and was sure to do so again, either in negotiations on the bill or if it reached his desk.
The other bond issues that would appear on the ballot as part of the now-threatened Assembly package include $800 million for public school facilities, $100 million for school bus safety improvements, $400 million for college and university construction and $500 million for building new prisons.
Also included would be three environmental measures: $100 million for drinking water cleanup; $100 million for coast and stream restoration and $150 million for eliminating sewage from Mexico that crosses the border near San Diego.