The California Assembly passed and sent to the State Senate yesterday a resolution that would make California the first state to ratify the proposed constitutional amendment that would give the district of Columbia full voting representation in Congress.
The 64-to-15 vote in the lower house came just one week after the U.S. Senate had approved the amendment. But there was serious doubt whether the California Senate would have time to act on the measure before the scheduled adjournment of the legislature on Thursday.
Meanwhile, in a meeting of the nation's governors in Boston, the chief executive of the 50 states urged in a voice vote that their legislatures approve the amendment to give the capital a voting voice on Capitol Hill.
The overwhelming support of the California Assembly climaxed an hour's floor debate during which assemblyman Willy Brown (D-San Francisco), head of the six-member black caucus, urged his colleagues to "rise above your narrow interests and take the next step on the rung of the ladder of freedom."
While Brown said the proposed amendment was "a black issue," another supporter, assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose) said. "This also is an issue for white people. It is a human issue, and the best legislature ought to be the first to promote full voting representation for all people."
The principal backer of the resolution, assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), immediately carried the resolution across the hall in the State house to the Senate, where its chief backer there, Sen. Bill Greene (D-Los Angeles) began the effort to get consideration of the resolution by the rules committee.
Among those voting against passage were two Republican assemblymen who unsuccessfully had attempted to amend the resolution.
Mike D. Antonovich (R-Glendale) accused supporters of trying to push through a "fast shuffle by a lame duck legislature." Antonovich's amendment would have made ratification by the legislature inoperative until it had been concurred in by a vote of the people of the state.
William Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) wanted the legislature to delay voting until it could get an "advisory vote" by the people in the 1980 California primary.
To opponents who asked Waters why supporters were in such a hurry to ratify the proposal, she replied, "Justice delayed is justice denied."
Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) said that while there was "no question that residents of the District of Columbia deserve to be heard at the federal level," he opposed ratifying the proposed constitutional amendment without fully investigating its ramifications.
"We're going to look stupid again in rushing through ratification," said Lewis, in a reference to California's early ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The resolution must follow the same parliamentary path in the Senate that it did in the Assembly. The critical test in the upper House, as it was in the Assembly, will be whether three-fourths - or 30 of the 40 senators - will vote to waive regulations that require a 30-day waiting period before action on new legislation. The D.C. measure passed that test in the 80-member Assembly on Monday night with only one vote to spare.
Water said Greene said counted "exactly 30" votes to waive the rules in the Senate, but the Republican floor leader, George Deukmejian of Long Beach, doubted that.
"I've got more than 10 votes against it," Deukmejian said.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy was expected to arrive here in time to lobby in behalf of ratification in the Senate. Fauntroy and D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker testified here last week before the Assembly's rules committee.
By the time the resolution came up for a vote in the Assembly yesterday, it had picked up 36 sponsors, only five short of the 41 needed for passage. The cosponsors included all six black members of the Assembly and floor leaders of both parties.
As it moved to the Senate, the resolution had eight sponsors, including both black members and two of the Senate's 14 Republicans.
At the Boston meeting of the nation's governors, the chief executives of the states said the constitutional amendment should be ratified because Washingtonians "carry the same burdens of citizenship as those "residents) in the 50 states."
Residents of the District of Columbia they added, also "are subject to taxation without representation, conscription without a voice in our international affairs and governance by a Congress in which no voting member is accountable to them."
A continued denial of full representation in Congress would be "indefensible," the governors said. The District has a nonvoting representative in the House, Del. Walter Fauntroy. Under the proposed amendment, which must be ratified by at least 38 states, the District would have two senators and at least one representative, with full voting rights.
Urging his colleagues to endorse the amendment, Gov. Robert D. Ray of Iowa, a Republican, said, "It is a rare time that we have a chance to speak out with more than a rhetorical voice on behalf of civil rights and human rights."
"Some argue that the nation's capital is a city and not a state," Ray said. "I would say it's a district, and whatever you call it, its residents deserve full citizenship.
"Some say it would man a one-party jurisdiction, and it's not my party," Ray continued, referring to Washington's overwhelming registered Democratic majority. "I would say it's up to my party and me to encourage them to join us.
"Some raise the race issue. I would hope we're past the time when race has anything to do with the right to representation. Now we have a chance to do something that is right."
The governors approved the resolution by a voice vote. There appeared to be two or three noes among more than 40 governors voting.
Gov. Mike O'Callaghan of Nevada, a Democrat who supported the resolution, said, however, that he wanted to "send a message" to D.C. Mayor Walter E. Washington.
He called on the mayor to rescind an order say that city officials cannot travel on business at District expense to states that have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
O'Callaghan said District officials were not allowed to attend a meeting of local government leaders in Las Vegas in May because of the mayor's order. The Nevada governor said he had tried unsuccessfully to get his legislature to approve the Equal Rights Amendment in 1975 and again last year.