SACRAMENTO — Midway through the Legislature's two-year session, the San Fernando Valley-area's legislative agenda has been highlighted by land-use issues and two major transportation bills.
By early Saturday, as the first half of the session ended, more than a dozen bills directly affecting the Valley and surrounding areas had passed, ranging from a measure to help raise money for schools in the growing Santa Clarita Valley to legislation to purchase parkland in Simi Valley.
It was a year marked by two of the Valley's key Democratic politicians--Assemblyman Richard Katz of Sepulveda and Sen. Alan Robbins of Van Nuys--forming a sometimes rocky alliance on a successful measure to overhaul the Southern California Rapid Transit District and give the Valley a seat on a new transit panel.
Tensions within the delegation unexpectedly boiled into public view late Friday as Robbins and Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) disagreed over another Robbins-sponsored bill to delay Metro Rail in the Valley and eliminate two potential light-rail routes.
That bill was shelved until next year, leaving the fate of Metro Rail in the Valley up in the air.
Another major issue--financing for Mission College--finally was resolved after many setbacks. Other legislation provided funds for freeway interchanges; the sale of land at Camarillo State Hospital for a facility to treat abused children; $200,000 for a blood-research project sought by Assemblyman Tom Bane (D-Tarzana) and a bailout for small cities.
These are among hundreds of bills awaiting action on Gov. George Deukmejian's desk.
Several bills failed to win passage and will be reconsidered next year. Among them is a proposal to prohibit new landfills, which was introduced by Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Tarzana), the Valley's only freshman lawmaker.
Robbins also set aside his proposal to spend $5 million in state funds for Japanese gardens in the Valley and San Diego until the Legislature reconvenes next year.
The major bill that stalled would have banned light-rail construction in Van Nuys and North Hollywood for a decade and postponed Metro Rail construction in the Valley for two years. It was unexpectedly shelved on Friday when it hit a parliamentary snag.
As a result, the RTD is required under a 1984 law to begin Metro Rail tunneling in North Hollywood by Sept. 29 and spend $13 million by next September, even though lawmakers agreed that the work should be postponed.
It was the bill's proposed light-rail ban that sparked intense opposition. The measure would have eliminated consideration of two of five proposed Valley light-rail routes that are being fought by Robbins' constituents in Van Nuys and North Hollywood.
Protest by La Follette
In the Assembly, Bane, who recently became chairman of the powerful Rules Committee, had steered the measure through on a party-line vote over the objections raised by Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge). She protested that the legislation interfered with a continuing environmental study of the five proposed routes.
In the Senate, Robbins delayed consideration of the bill until the RTD reorganization had won final approval. But, when he saw that it could be held up on a procedural question, Robbins made a last-ditch effort, seeking to persuade Hart not to delay consideration of the bill. Hart would not budge.
Hart, whose district includes Ventura County and part of Woodland Hills, said he opposes the light-rail ban because it would appease a small group of constituents at the expense of the welfare of Valley residents. He told Robbins that the bill should not even be considered by the full Senate until it had been reviewed by the Senate Transportation Committee.
"It's bad policy, even worse process," Hart said in an interview.
The Senate Rules Committee unanimously agreed with Hart. Transportation Committee members informally decided to wait until January.
"We won half the battle," Robbins said later, referring to passage of the bill to abolish the RTD and replace it with a new agency. "Unfortunately, I've had a number of battles to fight over the last few days."
In contrast, Robbins and Katz won approval Friday of their bill to reorganize the much-criticized RTD and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission into a countywide transit super-agency. The bill specifies that the new agency's board include a Los Angeles City Council member from the Valley.
In early maneuvering, Robbins forced Katz to capitulate to his version of the reorganization, which included a provision that would have paved the way for Robbins to claim a seat on the powerful new Metropolitan Transportation Agency. But Robbins, the consummate expert of legislative gamesmanship, had to delete the provision when faced with intense Senate opposition. The bill, then sent to the governor, was close to Katz's original measure.
Valley Could Win