The chances of passing a secession bill in Sacramento rose dramatically Thursday after three Valley Assembly members launched the first bipartisan effort to co-sponsor a compromise measure.
The effort stands in sharp contrast to the intense political battle over similar legislation last summer and is the latest in a series of recent developments that has heartened backers of legislation to make it easier for the Valley to secede from Los Angeles.
The three Valley lawmakers involved in the new bipartisan coalition--Tony Cardenas (D-Sylmar), Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) and Tom McClintock (R-Northridge)--announced their cooperative venture after meeting for an hour in the state Capitol Thursday.
All were confident they could agree on a bill before Feb. 28, the state Assembly's deadline for the introduction of bills.
"The message of the day is that we're all working together," Cardenas said.
McClintock was equally hopeful.
"I left the meeting very optimistic that an agreement is possible that meets the major objections of all sides."
In August, a secession bill, sponsored by then-Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland (R-Granada Hills), died a fiery death. Its comeback this session is due in no small part to a change of heart by Boland's nemesis, state Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward).
Lockyer even has his own bill, which would ease the way for parts of Los Angeles to secede by eliminating the veto power of the City Council.
He was not at the meeting Thursday.
But he apparently was made aware of the meeting in hopes of forming a coalition and gave his blessings, Hertzberg said.
"The starting point for compromise is in our house," Hertzberg said.
Until Thursday's meeting, Hertzberg, McClintock and Cardenas all had either introduced or said they planned to introduce a version of a secession bill, which they will now collapse into one.
A bipartisan bill bearing the names of all three legislators eliminates the need to hash out three competing measures.
The legislators did not disclose details, but said they have not yet come together on the critical issue of who would vote in a secession election--the whole city or just the area seeking to secede.
Time is a key factor to local backers of a measure to remove the veto power of the City Council over secession.
Jeff Brain, the co-chairman of Valley VOTE, said his group is pushing to get the legislation passed before the Los Angeles primary election in April.
That would blunt opposition from the City Council, which lobbied heavily against the Boland bill last year but has been silent on the new measures, which have gathered momentum over the past 1 1/2 months.
"We asked for that because half our council members are up for reelection," Brain said. "We thought they wouldn't interfere too much."
But a spokesman for Lockyer said last week that the April deadline is a bit ambitious and not expected to be met.
Brain said he and other leaders of Valley VOTE have been methodically meeting with legislators in both parties. Now that they have some distance from last summer's caustic, partisan battles in Sacramento, the lawmakers are more open-minded on the merits of the bill.
"We did a deliberate campaign, meeting with legislators, making an extra effort to speak to both sides," Brain said. "This is not a partisan issue. It is not an ethical issue. It is a good government issue."