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Legislature Meets Today to Consider Earthquake Relief

November 09, 1987|CARL INGRAM | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The Legislature will meet in special session today at the call of Gov. George Deukmejian to provide millions of dollars in emergency state relief to victims of the earthquakes that rocked Los Angeles and Orange counties last month.

The aim of the session is to extend various forms of aid to people whose property suffered damage but who do not qualify for assistance under existing federal and state programs.

But even as the legislators interrupted their recess and prepared to return to the Capitol, pressure mounted to add more issues to the agenda, an effort Deukmejian resisted.

Proposals for special session action ranged from extending relief assistance to victims of Northern California fires last summer to providing state financing for the troubled Los Angeles trauma care system.

Swift Relief Hoped

Legislative leaders expressed hope that the quickie session will last only one or two days and that extra state relief can be swiftly delivered so that homes can be repaired and hard-hit small businesses put back into full operation.

The Assembly made plans for earthquake legislation to be heard by the full membership in a "committee of the whole," a procedure that would hasten action by eliminating the normal hearing process by several committees.

In the Senate, regular committees are expected to consider the relief legislation on a fast-track basis. Last week, some Senate committees laid the groundwork for quick action this week by taking testimony at fact-finding hearings.

Although several competing bills, including an $80-million program by Deukmejian, are proposed for introduction, legislative sources indicated that no firm plan has yet been developed that would be acceptable to both Deukmejian and leaders of the Assembly and Senate.

Proposal Negotiable

Both legislative and Administration sources said such a plan probably will emerge today at a luncheon meeting hosted by Deukmejian for Democratic and Republican leaders. The governor has indicated that his proposal is negotiable.

Money to finance the relief programs would come from Deukmejian's fiercely guarded reserve for economic uncertainties, including the governor's own relief plan.

One major bill, by Assemblyman Charles M. Calderon (D-Alhambra), would provide $136 million for grants and loans to quake victims, including $30 million in grants to individuals and families. The maximum grant of $10,000 would be in addition to the federal maximum grant of $5,000 to individuals and families.

The Calderon measure would also earmark $47 million for reconstruction of local government facilities, including payment of overtime wages for emergency personnel and for equipment costs. Likewise, it would set aside $16.5 million for reconstruction of public schools, $16.5 million for state university repairs and $2 million for community college reconstruction.

Tax Deferment

The Calderon measure, like others, also proposes that payment of property taxes by quake victims be deferred and it would enable state income taxpayers to carry their losses forward for five years if the loss exceeded the net income of the taxpayer.

Deukmejian, however, has proposed that property taxes be eliminated for up to three years for certain victims if their homes were substantially damaged. The state would make the property tax payments for them at a cost of $10 million.

Deukmejian's proposal has far more generous property tax provisions than those advanced by legislators, although legislative staff consultants voiced concern that it might run into legal problems. For one thing, the state Constitution prohibits making a gift of public funds. For another, it might run afoul of equal protection requirements when some taxpayers would pay their taxes while others would not.

Although there is controversy over the total amount of damage suffered in Los Angeles and Orange counties from the Oct. 1 quake and subsequent aftershocks, Deukmejian has estimated that damage to public entities is about $100 million.

Individual, Family Grants

Of this, he anticipates that the federal government would pay $40 million for reconstruction while the state would contribute $60 million. He would also set aside $10 million for individual and family grants of a maximum $10,000 each. These would supplement the $5,000 federal grants.

Other relief legislation is expected to be offered by such lawmakers as Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights), Sen. Cecil N. Green (D-Norwalk), and Assembly members Frank Hill (R-Whittier) and Lucille Roybal Allard (D-Los Angeles).

Although Deukmejian limited the special session to dealing strictly with earthquake relief for Los Angeles and Orange counties, some legislators are trying to persuade the governor to put other issues on the agenda.

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