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Wilson's Veto of Deportation Bill Stands as Override Fails

March 04, 1994|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — The state Senate on Thursday narrowly overrode Gov. Pete Wilson's veto of a bill to deport illegal immigrant felons from California prisons, but the Assembly declined to follow suit.

No veto has been overridden by both houses since 1979, when Democrat Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. was governor, according to legislative records. The last time either house voted to override was in 1984, when the Senate objected to then-Gov. George Deukmejian's veto of a school lease-purchase bond issue. That effort also failed in the Assembly.

The Senate voted for the override despite a stiff lobbying effort by Wilson to uphold his veto of a bill by Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles). The vote was 27-12, the exact two-thirds margin required in the Senate.

All 22 Senate Democrats, two independents and three breakaway Republicans--freshmen Rob Hurtt of Garden Grove, Maurice Johannessen of Redding and Phil Wyman of Tehachapi--voted for the override. All the votes supporting the veto were cast by Republicans.

Minutes after the Senate vote, the Assembly took up the override. But minority Republicans and a sprinkling of majority Democrats refused to give permission to debate the issue, leaving the veto intact.

Thursday was the legislative deadline to act on the override. Torres' aides said, however, that a rule change will be proposed next week to extend the deadline 15 days.

Torres, who is running for state insurance commissioner, said his bill would save California taxpayers about $350 million a year in prison costs by turning over undocumented immigrant criminals to U.S. authorities for deportation.

The bill cleared the Legislature last summer without a dissenting vote as political pressure mounted for legislators to take action against illegal immigrants.

Wilson, who has made illegal immigration an issue in his reelection campaign, said he agreed with the concept of Torres' bill.

But he said the bill was so technically flawed it could have the unintended consequence of freeing thousands of criminals in Tijuana "only to (have them) promptly return illegally to California to harm new victims."

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