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Freshman Congressman Bono Introduces His 1st Bill

March 09, 1995|FAYE FIORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Figuratively thumbing his nose at naysayers who said he could never cut it in Congress, Rep. Sonny Bono (R-Palm Springs) unveiled his first piece of legislation Wednesday, a bill that would make it more difficult for federal courts to block state voter initiatives.

The bill seeks to end the system that allows a single federal judge to halt by injunction a measure passed into law by voters. Such was the case with Proposition 187, the anti-illegal immigrant initiative approved by voters in November and promptly tied up in court.

Bono's bill would require that opponents get the approval of three federal judges rather than one, then would expedite the challenge process that now can take months.

"It is simply wrong to allow a single federal judge to delay implementation of the people's will for weeks or even months," the freshman Republican said. "This bill is not about the merits of a particular case, it is about respecting the decision of the people."

Bono, a 60-year-old former pop star, has been the talk of Washington since he arrived, attracting enormous media attention and signing autographs in the halls of Congress. He has been called everything from citizen legislator to idiot savant by a political audience divided over the merits of the political late bloomer who never even voted until 1988, when he decided to run for mayor of Palm Springs.

But Bono has been slowly winning over the federal city, and his legislation--co-sponsored by such heavy hitters as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.)--nudges him closer to the realm of serious lawmaker.

"He's obviously very excited and particularly thrilled to be able to address an issue that is involving such a basic democratic premise--the will of the people being heard," said Bono's press secretary, Frank Cullen.

Bono's bill was scheduled to be unveiled Monday, but painful bone spurs in his neck, caused by arthritis, delayed action. He was scheduled for neck surgery today but made a sudden recovery Wednesday afternoon and, wearing a neck brace, rushed to the House to introduce the bill.

Although the legislation was inspired by Proposition 187--the initiative that would deny education and other public benefits to illegal immigrants--it would not apply retroactively.

Bono's bill would refer voter-approved measures challenged in court to a three-judge panel named by the chief judge of the Circuit Court, and would expedite review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also sponsoring the Bono bill are every Republican member of the California congressional delegation and all Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, the panel that must now review it.

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