SACRAMENTO — Showing he could still wield influence even though his days in the Legislature are numbered, Assemblyman Richard Robinson blocked a maneuver Monday that would have given state Sen. Marian Bergeson one last chance to push her courthouse construction bill through a hostile committee.
Last month, the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted down the bill, which would let several counties hike parking and traffic fines to raise money to build new courthouses. But Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) said she had picked up the two additional committee votes she needed to reverse that decision.
Before the committee could vote on the bill again, however, Bergeson had to obtain a waiver of legislative rules because the deadline for committee action had passed.
Robinson (D-Garden Grove), who is leaving the Assembly to run for Congress, used his ties to the Democratic chairmen of the Assembly Rules and Judiciary committees to keep the waiver from being granted. The last scheduled meeting of the Judiciary Committee before the Legislature adjourns later this month is today.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors had been counting on Bergeson's courthouse construction bill to provide about $5 million annually toward a new $22-million juvenile court facility in Orange and a $100-million Superior Court annex in Santa Ana.
But when the bill came up in the Judiciary Committee last month, it encountered strong opposition.
The state Judicial Council, the administrative arm of the Supreme Court, said the system of tacking penalty assessments onto traffic fines had become too confusing. The American Civil Liberties Union said the scheme is unfair because people other than traffic offenders use courthouses.
And Robinson called it a stopgap fund-raising scheme that undermined the chances for meaningful reform of the state's system of paying for the operation of trial courts.
On Monday, Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Elihu Harris (D-Oakland) told the Rules Committee that he was in a precarious position because he had promised Bergeson he would help her to win a waiver of the rules. But Harris said Robinson, with whom he agreed on the issue itself, was strongly opposed to the waiver.
In effect, the Rules Committee told Bergeson to overcome Robinson's objections.
"I never give up," Bergeson said, though she acknowledged that the measure's chances had been substantially diminished.
Two Countis Added
Before Monday's confrontation, Bergeson, trying to win the two additional votes she needed to get the bill through committee, added Sacramento and San Joaquin to the list of counties the measure would affect. The amendment was a thinly veiled attempt to win the support of Assemblywoman Jean M. Duffy (D-Citrus Heights) and Assemblyman Patrick Johnston (D-Stockton), who did not vote for the proposal last month.
As presented last month, the new penalty assessment would have applied only to Orange, San Diego, Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties. If the bill were enacted, all parking fines would increase $1.50 and other traffic fines would be increased about 10% next year in the counties affected.