An attempt to steamroller through the California legislature ratification of the constitutional amendment that would give the District of Columbia full voting representation in Congress was stalled yesterday.
The action delayed at least temporarily the hope of supporters of the amendment that they could capitalize on the momentum of Tuesday's dramatic passage of the measure in the U.S. Senate by winning ratification by the first of the necessary 38 states in the same week.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy and City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, who came here to personally guide the ratification effort, appeared disappointed by the rejection of the proposal at a hearing of the Rules Committee of the California Assembly. Tucker admitted that "we thought it was going to be a formality."
The snag yesterday was more on a procedural matter that on the substantive value of the amendment.Its chief sponsors, Willie L. Brown Jr. (D-San Francisco) and Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), expressed optimism that probelms could be resolved in time for the Assembly to consider the matter Monday.
But yesterday's delay could be critical because the legislature is planning to adjourn next Tuesday.
Rules Committee Chairman Louis J. Papan (D-Daly City) told the District of Columbia officials that he is "reasonably sure" the Assembly would ratify the amendment next week. But he added, "Your trouble is going to come in the Senate because of the time crunch."
Brown, a lawyer and head of the six-member black caucus in the Assembly, angrily warned the Rules Committee that "I don't want a double-cross" on what he thought had been a commitment to waive the rules yesterday.
The trouble came when two Republican members of the Rules Committee who are both candidates for the U.S. Congress, Jerry Lewis of Redlands and William M. Thomas of Bakersfield, wanted to know why it was so important to act so quickly. They pointed out that supporters of the amendment have seven years to win approval from three-fourths of the states' legislature.
Tucker responded that "the value to us is we'd like to keep the momentum rolling.
The committee's third Republican, William H. Lancaster of Covina, responded, "Being first is not necessarily being best."
It became apparent that the quick action sought by Fauntroy and Tucker was dommed when Chairman Papan agreed with the Republicans that it would be best to delay in the event some citizens wanted to urge their legislators to oppose ratification.
Action today would have required waiving two rules of the legislature. One says a new bill may not be heard by a committee within 30 days of its introduction, and the second requires any committee to give four days notice of a hearing on a bill. The ratification resolution was introduced here on Wednesday.
Most of the substantive questions raised by committee members were ones that Fauntroy and Tucker were skilled at answering, having had nearly six years fending off similar concerns by members of Congress. Even Lewis was satisfied with the answers on such matters, saying, "You've obviously done your homework."
As the committee prepared to adjourn, Brown, who is not a member of the committee, renewed his protest, accusing Lewis of being insincere about the procedural objections and predicting "when we come back in here Monday, you'll still be objecting."
But Waters, a freshman legislator and former Head Start teacher in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, agreed to the delay, and told Lewis, "I trust you."
Lewis is the Republican nominee for Congress to fill a seat being vacated by Rep. Shirley Pettis. Thomas wants to replace the late Rep. William Ketchum.
According to another Republican assemblyman, Robert C. Cline of Northside, both Lewis and Thomas are "moderate Republicans."
Cline predicted the assembly would ratify the amendment with "no more than a half dozen 'no' votes among its 80 members." Although ratification of a constitutional amendment by the legislature requires only a simple majority, it will be necessary to get a three-fourths vote, or 60 of the 80 members, to waive rules and bring it to a vote.
Tucker expressed concern that the delay would prevent ratification before the legislature adjourned next week. If that happens, the amendment could be reintroduced when a new session begins in January.
Whether the California legislature acts next week, Fauntroy said the next targets are the legislatures of Pennsylvania and Michigan, both of which resume sessions after Labor Day.
Fauntroy planned to fly to Philadelphia today and then on to Harrisburg to meet with key supporters in that state's legislature.
Fauntroy and Tucker were taken to a press room when they arrived here this morning. Lieutenant Gov. Mervyn M. Dymally greeted "brother Fauntroy and brother Tucker." They were joined by a representative of Common Cause, which has provided professional help for the lobbying group, Self-Determination for D.C., and six Assembly members, including the prime sponsors, Brown, Waters and John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose).
Later in the morning, they met briefly with Gov. Jerry Brown who pledged his support not only in California but "all the way to the Potomac if necessary."
When Fauntroy told the governor that the ratification did not require his signature, Brown said, "I'll autograph it anyway." The governor said he was pleased that California apparently would be the first state to ratify the amendment, adding "when a sound is heard in the west, they listen in the east."