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Unexpected Detour Slows Secession Bill


SACRAMENTO — A bill that would ease the San Fernando Valley's attempts to secede from the city of Los Angeles hit an unexpected snag Tuesday when it was sent to an Assembly policy committee in a last-ditch attempt by opponents to squelch the measure.

"We have a problem with the bill," co-author Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) said Tuesday.

The developments arose a day after the measure, which would eliminate the veto power of city councils over secession applications, passed the state Senate 23-5.

Believing they had surmounted their last potential legislative obstacle, Hertzberg and Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Northridge), the co-author, predicted smooth sailing for the bill. They had expected it to win final approval in the Assembly on Tuesday or today.

But that was before the chairman of the Assembly Local Government Committee, Assemblyman Michael Sweeney (D-Hayward), asked that the measure be sent to his committee for a policy hearing.

The request was granted because the committee had not had an opportunity to consider the policy implications of having the new law apply throughout California.

In addition to eliminating the city council veto, the bill calls for a majority vote of the entire city, plus a majority vote of the area seeking to secede, before a city could be split up. It does not initiate secession.

The original bill applied only to Los Angeles. But an amendment making it apply statewide was added in the Senate by an opponent of the bill, Sen. Richard G. Polanco (D-Los Angeles). He hoped statewide application would make legislators who were willing to split up Los Angeles consider the impact of the law on their own cities.

Sweeney said the amendment is a problem for him and others.

"There are a lot of concerns at the local level," Sweeney said. "I think it was unfortunate [the bill] was changed to apply statewide. . . . It might not have passed out of the committee [the first time] if it applied statewide."

Opponents of the measure, including the League of California Cities and the cities of San Jose and San Diego, have contacted Sweeney to argue against the measure.

Despite the setback, and after lobbying other members of the Local Government Committee, McClintock and Hertzberg remained optimistic that the measure will pass out of the committee, probably today.

"I'm not worried," McClintock said.

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