SACRAMENTO — With opposition to waste-to-energy plants mounting in the San Gabriel Valley, Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte) in May sponsored a bill to make it harder to build the high-tech incinerators in Irwindale and Puente Hills.
From the outset, Tanner said she figured it would be an uphill fight because of opposition from large companies interested in building the waste-to-energy plants.
Still, the assemblywoman said she fought for the bill because emissions from the plants would exacerbate the San Gabriel Valley's air pollution.
On smoggy days, Tanner said, "it's just hell out there."
In June, the Ways and Means Committee rejected the bill by a 3-9 vote, and it died in the legislative session.
In the two-year legislative session that wound to a conclusion last month, the waste-to-energy issue dominated the San Gabriel Valley agenda.
Besides the Tanner measure, several other proposals were introduced to make it tougher to build the plants, but they also failed.
Only one major waste-to-energy bill reached the desk of Gov. George Deukmejian. Last week he signed a measure by Assemblyman Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto) that requires waste-to-energy plants to meet all current and future standards for toxic air emissions.
The Sher law was one of about 3,500 bills that reached the governor's desk during the two-year session.
Tanner said it was impossible to evaluate the session strictly from a San Gabriel Valley viewpoint. For example, Tanner said, "when we do something about education, it's statewide" not merely for a single district.
Overall, the session has been marked by the resolution of longstanding controversies.
Among other measures, Deukmejian signed into law a bill authorizing the withdrawal of $11 billion in state pension fund investments from companies doing business in South Africa and a bill to establish a 1-cent beverage container deposit. Last year he signed into law a bill to require the use of seat belts in cars.
Prison Site Wrangle
In the major Los Angeles-area issue, the Legislature and governor wrangled over whether to place a state prison near East Los Angeles. Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), whose district includes South Pasadena, has championed the opposition to the prison proposal.
Norman Boyer, chief lobbyist for the city of Los Angeles, explained: "As the largest jurisdiction in the state, things that affect us affect others, whereas if you're trying to build a swimming pool" in a small, rural town "it's a different situation."
As an example of the area's influence, controversy about the proposed Pacific Waste Management Co. incinerator in Irwindale fueled much of the debate over the waste-to-energy issue.
With landfills closing, 34 waste-to-energy projects have been proposed in the state to provide an alternate way of disposing of waste. A plant in Commerce has been completed and tests are scheduled to begin this fall. Another plant is under construction in Long Beach and others are planned in Central Los Angeles and Puente Hills.
Shepherding a Bill
When the proposal to build the Terminal Island plant hit a snag last year, Long Beach city officials turned to Sen. Ralph Dills (D-Gardena) for help. Dills carried legislation that cleared the way for construction of the $125-million project, known as the Southeast Resource Recovery Facility.
The bill, sought by the city of Long Beach, was among the first waste-to-energy measures to pass the Legislature.
Some local disputes take up a legislator's time but fail to trigger legislation.
For instance, early this year Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D- Alhambra) led the fight to ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed a 45-acre Monterey Park dump site on the federal Superfund cleanup list. He repeatedly criticized the state Department of Health Services, which wanted the land removed from the Superfund list but did not introduce legislation.
Issues Outside District
On other occasions, San Gabriel Valley legislators have entered into district issues elsewhere in Los Angeles County.
Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-Whittier) last year pushed through legislation aimed at derailing an effort to incorporate county-owned Marina del Rey. Montoya said he was opposed to incorporation because the county could lose income from leases in the marina if the affluent Westside area became a city.
In still other instances, local efforts to change state law take several years. In 1985, after several years of debate, a longstanding issue in Pomona was resolved through a law, authored by Sen. Ruben Ayala (D-Chino), that allows up to 10 weeks of harness racing at the Pomona fairgrounds.
Among other bills of countywide importance were:
A bill that dictates how $495 million in state bond money will be divided among the state's 58 counties for jail construction projects. Los Angeles County expects to receive about $161 million for new jail facilities. Deukmejian on Tuesday allowed it to become law without his signature.
An unsuccessful effort by the county last year for a measure to raise as much as $175 million for financially hard-pressed local governments by boosting motor-vehicle license fees. The county stood to gain $44 million a year, but the bill in effect was shelved by its author, Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights).
A measure to help police fight street prostitution. Under the bill, by Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), police will have the flexibility to initiate negotiations with suspected prostitutes. Los Angeles City Atty. James Kenneth Hahn said that under existing law, an arrest is not valid if undercover police officers directly ask a prostitute to engage in sex for money.
"We expect to have more arrests and convictions as a result of the change in this law," Hahn said.
The measure was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that it would allow police to entrap prostitutes.
The new law takes effect Jan. 1.