SACRAMENTO — In a back room showdown early Thursday morning, lawmakers preserved a controversial legislative amendment that some believe could block the Los Angeles Raiders move to Irwindale.
In the end, both sides claimed victory.
The amendment stayed in a trial courts funding bill that was approved by the Assembly and Senate shortly after 3 a.m. and sent to Gov. George Deukmejian before the Legislature adjourned for the year.
Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles), author of the amendment and a longtime opponent of the Raiders move, believes the amendment will "hurt" Irwindale and keep the city from floating bonds to build the Raiders a stadium.
But Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights), who has been carrying on the fight for the Raiders in the Legislature, argues that Roos won a hollow victory. Campbell obtained a legal opinion by the legislative counsel that said Roos' amendment would not apply to Irwindale.
The amendment specifically blocks aid from going to cities that issue bonds to construct sports facilities, convention centers, industrial parks and other such facilities if they are turned over to private companies.
Under the trial court bill, Irwindale would otherwise receive financial aid--said to be in the range of $2 million to $3 million over seven years. Irwindale is one of the those targeted by the bill for special aid to cities that get little or none of the property tax money that the state gives to local governments.
But Campbell contends that the amendment applies only to cities and not redevelopment agencies within cities. Campbell said that if a redevelopment agency in Irwindale floats the bonds, the amendment will have no impact on the city.
With the stadium financing deal already shaky because of rising interest rates and legal challenges, Roos believes his amendment could be the final blow to the small city's dream of stealing the football team away from Los Angeles.
Campbell was not a member of the conference committee that put the trial courts bill together, but he was working closely with Sen. Cecil N. Green (D-Norwalk), who was.
Green was not concerned about the Raiders but was fearful that the Roos amendment would have the unintentional effect of hurting some cities in his district that were thinking of floating bonds for other purposes.
Campbell and Green decided on a showdown right before the courts bill was scheduled to be voted on. Their leverage was a conference committee report that had to be signed by all six members of the committee before it could be put up for a vote by the full Assembly and Senate.
Putting on his best poker face, Green, who everyone knew desperately wanted the bill because it would provide so much extra financial aid for cities in his district, told weary lawmakers on the conference committee that he would not support the bill as long as it contained the Roos amendment. "I can't sign the report," he said.
Roos refused to back down. He insisted his amendment stay in the bill.
There were several tense minutes before Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) decided to call Green's bluff.
The Speaker suggested a compromise: He would take the amendment out if Green agreed to decrease the amount of financial aid to the cities by $20 million.
Green was silent. Then Campbell provided the way out. "I talked to Irwindale," he told Brown and other committee members, "and Irwindale said this is something they can probably come back and work out next year. They are recommending that we support the package."
Green quickly grabbed the conference report, signed it, and the bill was ready for a vote.