SACRAMENTO — Senate leader David A. Roberti launched a new round of retribution Monday against senators he accused of plotting against him, including the house's No. 2 GOP leader and a dissident Democrat.
Republican Caucus Chairman John Seymour of Anaheim, who has publicly called for a leadership shake-up for at least a year, was stripped of his chairmanship and membership on the Select Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, fired as vice chairman and member of the influential Budget Committee and removed as vice chairman of the Toxics Committee.
Sen. Daniel E. Boatwright (D-Concord), whom Roberti last week fired as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, was removed as a member of the Banking and Commerce Committee, widely known as a "juice committee" whose members receive campaign contributions from major financial institutions.
Roberti, a Los Angeles Democrat, indicated to reporters that more punishments are likely to be in store for at least one other prominent Republican, Sen. H. L. Richardson of Glendora, a major fund-raiser for conservative causes.
Richardson is also widely regarded as the driving force behind the 1983 installation of Seymour as Republican Caucus chairman and Sen. James W. Nielsen of Rohnert Park as GOP floor leader.
"I'm making a point that if you challenge the leadership, the challenge will not go unnoticed," Roberti said of his action in stripping the two lawmakers of their most important committee assignments.
A defiant Seymour said he believed that the "punishment being handed out here for the type of activity is inappropriate."
I'll not be deterred from doing what my caucus members have asked me to do, and that is become a majority party in this house," he said.
Later, an unrepentant Boatwright met privately with a handful of Senate Republicans and emerged declaring: "If this is what he (Roberti) wants, I will start soliciting people and lining up support. If he doesn't want this, he better come to me and make some peace. . . . I was a combat infantryman in Korea . . . and I know how to fight a war."
After a 1986 attempt to topple him, Roberti disciplined dissident Sen. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) by removing him from the Budget Committee but allowing him to keep his other committee assignments. Apparently completing probation, Garamendi, who now calls himself a strong Roberti supporter, was given the chairmanship of the Revenue and Taxation Committee by Roberti last month.
Roberti's action this time around was far wider ranging, apparently a firm signal to the Senate that he will take decisive discipline and tolerate no attempted coups. He maintained that his actions are aimed merely at "restoring stability."
The reprisals were approved during a closed-door session by Roberti and his Democratic allies on the Rules Committee, which must pass on all Senate committee assignments.
Wednesday, Roberti became convinced--despite the protestations of Boatwright and Seymour--that they were plotting to topple him as president pro tem of the Senate. He fired Boatwright as chairman of the money-handling committee and made it clear that he would punish Seymour as well.
Boatwright subsequently indicated that he intends to remove Roberti, perhaps after a special election March 17 for a Senate seat that includes parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties. Republicans believe they will win the seat formerly held by Paul Carpenter (D-Norwalk).
In the Nov. 4 election, Senate Democrats lost two seats and now number 23. Republicans total 15. One seat is held by independent Sen. Quentin Kopp of San Francisco.
Roberti said he became convinced on evidence, which he refused to disclose, that Boatwright, with Seymour's encouragement, was attempting to topple him with a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats.
Seymour has proclaimed that every election the Senate Republicans win makes it easier for them to fashion a coalition and ultimately take over the Senate, long controlled by Democrats. The last coalition president pro tem was in 1969-70, when rebellious Young Turks overthrew the old guard Establishment.
As for Richardson, Roberti previously indicated that he wanted Richardson removed from the Judiciary Committee, an assignment Richardson relishes. However, action on Richardson was delayed until one of his defenders, Rules Committee member John Doolittle (R-Citrus Heights) can be present.
Richardson said that if he is removed, it would "be vendetta time."
"If they want to play games, I will show you how to play. They know I enjoy being on the committee, and it's about the only one I attend. But (firing him) would give me more time to do what I do best--that is raising money and going out and making trouble for them," he said.
Times staff writer Daniel Weintraub contributed to this story.