SACRAMENTO — As the legislative session wound to a close last month, lawmakers grappled with statewide and global issues ranging from deposits on beverage containers to apartheid.
During the two-year session, local concerns also prompted lawmakers to introduce legislation to sell property at Norwalk's Metropolitan State Hospital, pave the way to build a waste-to-energy plant in Long Beach and help a Norwalk woman gain custody of her granddaughter.
On Tuesday, Gov. George Deukmejian completed action on the last of about 3,500 bills sent to his desk--including a handful of measures which originated in the Long Beach and Southeast areas.
In the key Los Angeles-area issue, Deukmejian and the Legislature wrangled over whether to build a state prison near East Los Angeles. The fight against the prison has been championed by Assemblywoman Gloria Molina (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Art Torres (D-South Pasadena), whose districts include Maywood, Commerce and Bell Gardens.
While the prison dispute was a high-profile issue, more often than not, so-called district bills generally receive less attention than those relating to statewide issues. They also face a high mortality rate.
"It's a hell of a lot tougher to get them passed," said Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk), who noted that he introduces few district bills because people in his 63rd District are "typical Californians" who don't have special needs that require such legislation.
Grisham, though, did sponsor one district bill this year as a result of an appeal from a constituent whose abused 5-year-old granddaughter had been placed in a foster home even though the grandmother wanted custody.
Initially, Grisham said, the bill focused merely on helping grandparents who faced similar circumstances. But the Assembly Judiciary Committee did not want the bill so narrowly fashioned and sought several amendments. Finally, the committee approved, on a 6-2 vote, Grisham's proposal to give "relatives," not just grandparents, preference for custody in child abandonment and abuse cases.
Along the way, the proposal generated support from a group of Los Angeles area grandparents and some state officials, and it sailed through the Legislature and was signed into law on Sept. 2.
Several other district measures were not approved. They included:
- A bill by Sen. Paul B. Carpenter (D-Cypress) and supported by the City of Norwalk aimed at selling 18 acres of Metropolitan State Hospital. It was bottled up in committee, in part because legislative critics said the state should retain the land--even though the number of state hospital patients has been dropping.
- A labor union-supported measure by Sen. Ralph C. Dills (D-Gardena) requiring that container cranes in ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach be equipped with elevators. The measure, which was prompted by the 1984 death of a crane operator at the Port of Long Beach, failed in May to win approval from the Senate Industrial Relations Committee. A similar measure last year by Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Hawthorne) also failed passage.
Another bill of prime interest to people who live around Long Beach Airport was vetoed late Tuesday. The measure by Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove) would have kept neighboring residents from suing airports more than once unless operations or noise levels had "significantly" changed. But Deukmejian, who vetoed similar measures in 1983 and 1984, once again rejected the bill.
On some district bills, the author and the intended beneficiary may not always agree with the effect of the legislation.
For instance, Assemblyman Dave Elder (D-Long Beach) was prompted to introduce a measure because of constituents who sought a sound wall on the Artesia Freeway in North Long Beach but could not get it built because the state ranked the project near the bottom of the priority list for funds.
Elder said the measure, which Deukmejian signed in August, is aimed at giving such cities as Long Beach greater assurances that they will be reimbursed by the state if they go ahead with a freeway sound wall project before it reaches the top of the priority list. However, Long Beach officials minimized the effect of the measure because the city does not have money to build the noise barriers.
Long Beach officials expressed more happiness about the passage of another district bill.
When their proposal to build a waste-to-energy plant on Terminal Island hit a snag last year, Long Beach officials sought Dills help.
Dills successfully carried legislation that cleared the way for construction of the $125-million project, known as the Southeast Resource Recovery Facility, which is supposed to generate power for 30,000 to 40,000 homes annually when it is completed in 1988. The first commercial plant in the state is to be tested in Commerce this fall and is expected to produce enough energy for 20,000 homes a year.