SACRAMENTO — After a disappointing meeting with a state attorney Monday, the sponsors of Proposition 187 said they have lost hope that Gov. Gray Davis was sincere last month when he pledged to represent their views in an upcoming court mediation.
Davis' offer to seek advice from sponsors of the ballot measure to end state benefits for illegal immigrants was intended to demonstrate that he wants all sides involved in his effort to find a compromise agreement on the constitutionality of the 1994 voter-approved measure.
But after a 50-minute meeting in their suburban Sacramento offices Monday afternoon, attorneys for the measure's original authors said they believe that the governor is engaged in political theater rather than a serious attempt to consider all views.
"They were just going through the motions," said Dave Stirling, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the measure's sponsors.
"Now the governor can say . . . he has talked to the proponents and he will consider their point of view," he added. "We wanted [people] to know that we took his offer seriously. All he is doing is playing politics with it by trying to put Proposition 187 to sleep without his fingerprints on it."
A spokesman for the governor insisted Monday that Davis' effort was a sincere one toward a settlement that represents all sides of the issue.
More than three years after it passed with nearly 60% support from voters, Proposition 187 was declared unconstitutional last year in a federal court. The decision was appealed last summer by former Gov. Pete Wilson.
Davis inherited the lawsuit and faced two politically sticky alternatives: to continue the court appeal and possibly implement the measure if it is upheld, or drop the case and risk a complaint that he thwarted the will of voters.
Davis chose a third route, asking the federal appellate court to mediate a settlement between state lawyers and several groups that challenged it in court. Davis said in a news conference last month that he would meet with the sponsors of the initiative and include their views at the mediation table.
Monday, when the scheduled meeting came, Stirling said, the governor's office sent a single deputy attorney general who gave no impression that their views would be taken seriously. There are no plans for further communication.
Stirling said the initiative sponsors were critical of the mediation proposal, but they reserved judgment until they met with the governor's staff.
At the meeting, two attorneys from Pacific Legal Foundation made their arguments, in writing and in speeches, about why mediation is a poor mechanism for resolving a constitutional question. They also outlined their defense of the constitutionality of cutting off government health, welfare and education benefits to illegal immigrants.
"I don't think our position is going to be the position taken by the attorney general's office or the governor's office in the mediation," said Sharon Browne, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. "Basically, we are an observer like the rest of the public."