The lower house of the California legislature was poised last night to become the first state body to ratify the proposed constitutional amendment that would give the District full voting representation in Congress.
The way for a vote was cleared after the rules committee of the lower house, called the Assembly asked the 80-member body to waive regulations that normally would have required a 30-day notice for consideration of the amendment, which passed the U.S. Senate just last Tuesday.
Even if the Assembly approves the amendment, it still faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.
With adjournment of the Legislature set for Thursday, backers of the ratification resolution were fearful that it could get caught in last-minute debates over such pressing local issues as income tax reform and a proposed rent rollback.
The question of whether early ratification might effect the mayoral race in Washington was raised at the start of the committee session by chairman Louis J. Papan (D-Daily City).
Papan said his office received a telephone call yesterday suggesting that the California legislature might be "interposing itself into D.C. politics" by approving the amendment so near the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.
He noted that D.C. Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, one of the three leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor, and D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy appeared before the committee last Thursday to lobby for ratification.
The caller, who did not identify himself to Papan's office, said that Fauntroy and Tucker would try to capitalize on their appearance here as being instrumental in the ratification, Papan said.
"I want to disavow any interest in their politics," said Papan. "My overriding concern is that no one be denied representative government. We are acquainted with the problem in D.C. and representative government is not now truly a part of that city.
Assemplywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), the primary sponsor of the amendment, said, "I have no interest in getting involved in D.C. politics. I don't care who runs for what."
Republican assemblyman Jerry Lewis, who was the most outspoken foe of rushing through the ratificcation process, had no quarrell with Fauntroy's and Tucker's trying to take credit for lining up support for the amendment.
"They're running for office, aren't they?" said Lewis, who is a candidate for Congress. "The real question is simply to ratify or not to ratify."
About a dozen persons showed up at the rules committee hearing to speak against waiving a requirement for a 30-day notification period before the assembly could vote on any new measure.
Although most of them argued that there had not been adequate public notice of the proposed action, it also was clear that, given the chance, they were prepared to argue against the merits of the idea.
Reginald Shinn, who described himself as a writer for the China Post in Taiwan and other publications, asked the committee, "Is this D.C. proposal so weak that you have to rush it through before Californians understand its ramifications?"
Shinn accused Larry Chimbole (D-Lancaster) asked Shinn, "if there was not sufficient notice, why are you here?"
Charles Gibson of Stockton, chairman of the conservative caucus in the 14th Congressional District, warned against "unseemly haste."
"We have seven years to make this decision" (the period specified in the amendment for ratification), he said.
Lewis told the protestors, "We waive this rule (for 30 days' notice) all the time around here, but we judge when it is appropriate. Sometimes a bill has been sitting around for a year. But if ever there were a time when the rule ought to be upheld, it's when it concerns a constitutional amendment."
Lewis concluded by saying, "Rarely do we waive it on such a serious matter, but this House is totally controlled (by the Democratic majority) so many of the 22 million Californians have no voice here. The committee vote will be 4-3."
And Lewis was correct, with all members voting along party lines.