SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian called the Legislature into special session on Monday to try to select a controversial new Los Angeles prison site, accusing some Democratic state senators of "going back on their word" in the 2-year-old dispute.
At the same time, the governor warned that current prison overcrowding could lead to a "a major prison riot" if the Los Angeles site isn't picked, which by law must be done before new prisons in San Diego and Stockton can be opened.
Deukmejian said he didn't have any other choice but to call the special session after talks with Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) broke down.
Special Session Advantage
The Assembly promptly convened in special session to consider the prison bill. The advantage of a special session, which must be called by the governor, is that the prison bill can be passed by simple majority vote, whereas two-thirds majority votes are needed for bills in the extended regular session.
The state Senate, led by Roberti and Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), has twice rejected the governor's downtown Los Angeles prison authorization bill because of the opposition of the Latino community in neighborhoods close to the site.
The governor said the Senate last year approved the prison siting bill after he agreed to accept amendments asked by Roberti and Torres, and to "look favorably" upon two bills authored by Torres.
The two bills, both signed by Deukmejian, provide state seed money for a Japanese museum to commemorate World War II internees, and provide more state funds to help high school dropouts.
But in an unusually harsh attack on the lawmakers, Deukmejian said some senators repudiated agreements that had been reached with the governor. "Their word is absolutely no good," he said. "I cannot see how anyone can operate under these circumstances."
Deukmejian also blasted Democratic state senators for voting against the bill, or not voting at all.
"If there is any reason for a legislator to be elected and serve," he said, "it is to serve the public.
"Those legislators are shirking their responsibilities if they continue to be obstinate and obstruct passage of this legislation."
Roberti replied, "Political pressure was put on him (Deukmejian) by his friends in Los Angeles--and, by God, he's not going to site a prison where he lives or where they live."
Failed to Reach Pact
The Senate leader charged that it was the governor who changed his mind and delayed construction of the Los Angeles prison when he rejected another site when urged to do so under pressure from Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.
Earlier in the day, with the legislative leaders of both parties unable to work out a final agreement with the governor--or among themselves--both the Senate and the Assembly began moving through a series of measures that would restore most of the $283 million that Deukmejian had vetoed from the state budget.
The bills, added to those already sent to the governor, would provide $264.4 million in additional funds to counties, school districts, transit systems and community colleges.
The legislative leaders were able to find $175.9 million in revenues to fund the added budget items--$88.5 million short of what was needed.
To bridge the gap without raising taxes or closing tax loopholes, the Legislature would have had to take surplus money from the Public Employees Retirement System--something that Senate Democrats refused to do.
The Assembly leaders were prepared to send the entire package of measures to Deukmejian and allow him to pick and choose which items he wanted to veto.