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Speaking Fees and Gifts Add to Legislators' Income

June 14, 1987|BOB WILLIAMS | Staff Writer

Six state legislators representing the South Bay received about $55,000 in gifts and speaking fees last year--a 15% increase over the outside income they collected in 1985, but still a modest total when compared to the amounts reported to the Fair Political Practices Commission by lawmakers in other parts of the state.

The leading local recipients are Assemblyman Curtis R. Tucker (D-Inglewood), who reported $8,484 in gifts and $7,700 in honorariums, and Assemblyman Dave Elder (D-Long Beach), who collected $2,057 in gifts and $13,850 for speaking engagements. At the bottom of the list, Sen. Ralph C. Dills (D-Gardena) reported a mere $559 in gifts, mostly free tickets and parking passes, and a $750 honorarium for participating in a cable TV show.

Although legislators generally said their outside activities are helpful in their work--giving them, for example, the opportunity to exchange views with experts on various subjects--most also acknowledged that they needed the money.

"I don't have any other income, so I live from paycheck to paycheck," said Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Hawthorne), noting that he welcomed the $9,810 in speaking fees he received last year in addition to his state salary.

Second lowest on the list--the statement of economic interests, required by the Political Reform Act of 1974--was Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro). He reported $2,076 in gifts last year, including $1,352 for tickets and transportation to the Academy Awards, and $500 for addressing a meeting of the Society for Clinical Social Work. A year earlier, he made no paid speeches and reported gifts of dinners and flowers valued at $711.

Floyd, who said he accepted no gifts last year, reported $12,500 for speeches and $3,147 in gifts in 1985--for a trip to Jamaica for a seminar sponsored by the California Trial Lawyers Assn., and a fishing trip.

Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach) collected $1,000 in honorariums and $7,708 in gifts last year, mostly for a London trip in March underwritten by the Assn. of California Insurance Companies. Beverly, who is vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and serves on the Senate Banking and Commerce Committee, said he and other legislators went made the trip to talk with Lloyds of London officials about the firm's policy of restricting insurance coverage in California.

In 1985, Beverly's $9,902 in gifts were largely for a visit to Saudi Arabia as a guest of that country and the U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, and a journey to China sponsored by various Chinese groups and individuals with business interests in the United States. He was one of several lawmakers invited on the trips.

'Trips Are Educational'

"I take the position that these trips are educational," said Beverly, who was elected to the Senate in 1976 after nine years as an assemblyman. "They give us a chance to sell our state and its products while we gather information about other countries where California firms do business."

Statewide, legislators on the high side of the ledger included Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-Whittier), who received more than $47,000 for speeches and $10,000 in gifts, making his outside income greater than that of all the South Bay's representatives combined. Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) took in $124,000 in gifts and honorariums.

Brown has proposed a ban on outside income as part of a plan to raise the salaries of legislators to $85,000 a year, but opponents say he is grandstanding because there appears to be little chance of the voters changing the state's Constitution to allow higher pay for legislators, who now receive $37,105 a year in salary, plus a tax-free allowance of $75 a day while the Legislature is in session.

Some legislators say they cannot meet expenses, including the cost of maintaining residences both in Sacramento and in their districts, without taking fees for speeches or having other outside income.

'Nobody Drafted Us'

Beverly, who has independent income from real estate and other investments, said he sympathizes with his less-affluent colleagues who must live on their legislative pay. "But, after all, nobody drafted us," he said. "We all knew the situation before we ran for office."

Floyd agreed that, despite the pay, "there's never a dearth of candidates" for public office. Many legislators work as lawyers or have other business interests, but Floyd does not.

"But you can be damn certain that if they cut my salary in half, I'd still be here. I love what I'm doing," he said.

Although a salary increase would be welcome, Floyd said, more pay would not eliminate potential conflicts of interest or "make us better or worse people. It's not the gifts that make the difference. It's the deals going on."

'I'm Not for Sale'

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