BOLAND BILL ELUDED TECHNICAL KNOCKOUT.
When Assemblywoman Diane Martinez rose to speak at 10 p.m. Wednesday, it triggered 17 tense minutes that almost spelled doom for a bill to take away the City Council's power over San Fernando Valley secession.
During a bitter, partisan showdown in the Republican-controlled lower house, Assembly Democrats led by Martinez nearly derailed a compromise embraced earlier in the day by Assemblywoman Paula Boland. The compromise would substitute a citywide vote on secession for the council's veto power.
The debate began when Martinez, D-Alhambra, struck her cane on her desk three times, demanding that citywide-vote amendments be ruled out of order because they had nothing to do with a Senate bill Boland tried to rewrite as a vehicle to revive her legislation.
It ended at 10:17 p.m. when a highly agitated Assembly speaker pro tem - Fred Aguiar, whom colleagues said had been almost ready to rule the other way - pounded the gavel and cleared the amendments for a vote that handed Boland, R-Granada Hills, a huge victory.
``I dodged a bullet, but it wasn't a righteous bullet,'' Boland said. ``When it all came down to it, they (Democrats) voted for the amendments anyway, so they were just trying to throw up more smoke and mirrors.''
Afterward, Democrats bemoaned the political decision by Aguiar, R-Ontario, but rallied to support the Boland compromise, which removes the City Council veto and replaces it with a citywide vote in any secession election.
Valley Democrats and even some inner-city Los Angeles Democrats helped pass the amendments on a 48-9 vote.
Assembly Minority Leader Richard Katz, D-Panorama City, was joined by Assemblywoman Barbara Friedman, D-Sherman Oaks, and Wally Knox, D-Los Angeles, in favor of the amendments. All three Valley representatives opposed Boland's initial bill on the Assembly floor in May.
Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl, D-Encino, was attending the Democratic National Convention and was not present for the vote.
Boland's procedural moves were made necessary by the narrow defeat of Assembly Bill 2043 in the Senate last week. She then took her bill, plus the citywide-vote provision, and dumped it into Senate Bill 112, which dealt with contractor licenses and public records.
``It disgraces the house that that thing was ruled germane,'' said Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose. ``It had no logical relationship at all - none. That's awful. It destroys the integrity of the house, I don't care which party does it.''
With the amendments approved, however, the new bill is expected to move swiftly out of the Assembly today, setting up a dramatic last 24 hours in the Senate as the legislative session draws to a whirlwind climax at midnight Saturday.
But Martinez - a protege of Sen. Richard Polanco, Boland's biggest foe in the Legislature - nearly pulled off a huge coup for opponents of the legislation, complaining that Boland's amendments to SB 112 violated the sacred rules of the Legislature.
``It's not germane,'' Martinez repeated over and over on the floor. ``If you guys want to completely ignore the practices of the house . . . then do this.''
A favorable ruling virtually would have killed any chance for Boland to pass a bill this year in the final days of the session.
But Martinez made her own fatal mistake. She pushed too hard.
Republican leaders acknowledged that Boland's move to amend SB 112 was hard to justify. Speaker Curt Pringle and Aguiar, who was presiding over the house, huddled for several minutes to discuss it. Aguiar said he was going to have to side with Martinez, sources said. Pringle tried to convince him that the amendments were germane, even though Pringle also was concerned about Boland's procedure, the sources added.
Aguiar asked for more time but Martinez, not known for her political aplomb, kept needling him.
``Mr. Speaker, I want a ruling,'' she persisted. ``The amendments are not germane to the current bill.''
``Ms. Martinez, we're discussing that right now,'' shot back Aguiar, who has won praise from Democrats for his even-handed rulings while running the house.
``Ms. Martinez, do you want me to rule right now?'' Aguiar asked, sending a clear message that the more she pushed, the less her chances to win.
While Republican lawmakers chatted among themselves in an attempt to drown out Martinez, she kept at it.
``This bill has nothing to do with Ms. Boland's bill,'' she said. ``How do you logically find germane a bill about the breakup of a city.''
Aguiar had heard enough.
``The amendments are germane,'' he said. ``The chair has ruled.''
Afterward, Aguiar said Martinez ``obviously didn't get the message'' that he was ``struggling'' with the decision.
``That was pure stupidity on her part,'' said a prominent GOP assemblyman. ``It was obvious Fred thought her point had merit, and she just didn't read the signals.''
Immediately, Democrats asked to appeal Aguiar's decision, but lost on a roll-call vote with 39 members supporting Aguiar.
``She made a big mistake,'' one Democratic leader said about Martinez. ``She was about to win.''
Boland insisted that her amendments were germane and wanted time to prove it.
``If they weren't germane I wouldn't have introduced them,'' she said. ``This is a common tactic used when people oppose amendments.''
The way the amendments were passed, however, could give Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer, D-Hayward, an excuse to toy with the bill when it is returned to the Senate - probably today.
Lockyer refused to speculate how he would respond, but said the amendments would require the bill to ``automatically'' go back to the Senate Rules Committee, where Boland's original measure was stalled for six weeks.
It would then be up to Lockyer to decide whether another hearing on the bill should take place today or Saturday before any possible floor vote.
``The railroading of the measure last night is indicative of the gap between principle and practice for those who claim this is about democracy,'' Lockyer said. ``I'm growing a bit weary of this whole soap opera.''
Boland was forced to find a new bill after the Senate defeated her measure last week that would limit any secession election to the area wishing to form a new city. Her bill was designed to strip the City Council's veto power inserted into state law nearly 20 years ago.
After wrestling with the decision of whether to embrace the citywide vote, Boland introduced the new amendments to a bill by Senate Minority Leader Rob Hurtt on Wednesday.
Hurtt's name will be removed as author and replaced by Sen. Ross Johnson, R-Irvine, who spoke in favor of the Boland bill on the Senate floor.