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California and the West

Bill on Racial Profiling Scrapped


SACRAMENTO — Facing increased pressure from civil rights leaders, state Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City) on Thursday withdrew his watered-down bill to combat racial profiling by police.

The retreat on the alleged practice of police detaining minorities for nothing more than "driving while black" was one of numerous high-stakes developments as the Legislature neared the climax of its two-year session.

Other developments included Senate passage of a bill that would give boxing promoters a tax break on major bouts and the death of legislation that would have expanded card club gambling in California.

Gov. Gray Davis, who last year vetoed a bill requiring police officers to collect racial data on motorists they stop, reached an agreement with Murray earlier this year on a new bill (SB 66) that would have required officers to give their business card to every motorist they stopped.

The compromise represented an escape hatch for the image-conscious Democratic governor, who had weathered significant criticism for vetoing the data collection bill.

But a parade of African American leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), slammed the compromise, complaining that it did not include what they wanted most: a requirement that police collect data on the race and ethnicity of those they detain, to determine the extent of the racial profiling problem.

State Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), the Legislature's most outspoken critic of Davis, made it clear he wanted the Murray bill dead. "Every civil rights leader in the country is opposed to it," Burton said.

Murray backed down, striking the bill from the agenda of a special hearing of the Senate Public Safety Committee on Thursday. Committee Chairman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) said it had no chance of emerging alive.

"It's b.s.," Vasconcellos said. "Business cards are a cover for doing nothing."

Murray insisted that his bill represented a progressive step toward ending the racial profiling debate. "My constituents want some progress now," said Murray, who believes that he was the victim of racial profiling in Beverly Hills several years ago.

California's most prominent black politician, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, joined the mounting opposition and may have paid a price Thursday.

According to a high-level Democrat, who asked not to be named, Davis reacted to Brown's lobbying against the compromise by withdrawing his support for up to $30 million in state aid for an expansion of runways at San Francisco International Airport.

Davis spokeswoman Hilary McLean said that the governor had never announced a position on a state subsidy for the airport project and that he had taken no action to punish San Francisco for the lobbying activities of its mayor.

In other action, the Senate defeated legislation, AB 1429, that would have allowed California card clubs to expand their gambling offerings to include the game of 21, or blackjack.

Dick Floyd (D-Wilmington), a strong supporter of card clubs, offered the legislation and said it would help clubs compete with the building boom of Indian casinos.

But Floyd conceded that he faced an uphill battle because Indian gambling interests are increasingly one of the most potent forces in Sacramento. Unlike card clubs, Indian casinos offer slot machines and other Las Vegas-style games.

"Let's face it, the Indians own this Legislature," Floyd said as his bill was going down.

Recent court decisions have cast a cloud on the legality of California's 125 card clubs, which are primarily in urban areas and provide a vital source of income for many struggling cities. In response, Floyd and Assemblyman Herb Wesson (D-Culver City) have been pushing legislation to ensure that the clubs can operate legally.

Wesson's bill, the product of continuing negotiations among Davis, state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, card clubs and Indian tribes, remains alive. It would not expand card club gambling.

The Senate also passed legislation to limit taxes on professional boxing impresarios such as Don King and Bob Arum for major title fights, a move intended to lure more big-time bouts to California. It caps the promoters' tax at $100,000 per event.

The bill, AB 52 by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), initially created controversy because it would have benefited the organizers of a specific match: the middleweight prize fight between Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya at Staples Center.

But when the De La Hoya-Mosley bout passed, the bill was judged simply on whether it would indeed bring bigger boxing matches to California, and most opposition vanished.

Other significant legislation included:

* AB 1963 by Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks). Would require credit card companies to tell consumers how long it will take them to pay their bills if they pay only the minimum. Cleared Senate; comes back to Assembly for final approval.

* SB 499, by Burton. Would require the Board of Prison Terms to consider when granting parole whether a prisoner suffered from battered women's syndrome when she committed the crime. Cleared Assembly and moves to Senate for final approval.

* SB 1877 by Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sylmar). Would protect janitors from losing their jobs for at least 90 days after a change in contractors. Designed to protect janitors who are organizing from being replaced with nonunion help. Cleared Assembly; returns to Senate for final approval.

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