The drive to get speedy ratification by the California legislature of the proposed constitutional amendment that would give full voting representation in Congress to D.C. residents apparently failed last night in the state Senate.
The upper house of the legislature refused to waive rules that would have permitted a vote on the resolution itself before it adjourns this week.
Suspension of the rules would have required approval by 30 of the 40 senators. The vote to suspend was 20 to 17. While it is possible for senators to switch their votes until yesterday's session ended respected early today, Washington time, supporters acknowledge chances of that happening were slim.
It doesn't look good, but we'll keep working right up to the end," said Sen. Bill Greene D-L.A.), the chief sponsor.
Before the vote was taken, backers of the resolution thought they had commitments from at least 24 senators, and were counting on a number of other members not to vote immediately, a procedure that is common in the state legislature.
But when the vote was called, all 37 members present voted and the decision not to suspend the rules went down in bipartisan defeat.
Of the 17 votes against waiver, three were cast by Democrats, who enjoy a 26 to 14 majority in the Senate and whose solid support was needed if the measure were to be approved.
Eleven of the 12 Republicans voted "no," including Peter H. Behr of San Rafael, who was one of eight sponsors of the resolution.
Greene said that two of the three senators who were not on the floor when the vote was called at about 6:30 p.m., Washington time, were committed to vote "yes."
Assemblywoman maxine Waters (D-L.A.) who guided the resolution to a resounding 64 to 15 victory in the lower house the previous day, rushed into the hallway after yesterday's vote to confer with Greene "and see if we can turn anyone around."
Butt McChesney, a Common Cause lobbyist at the legislature, admitted "it doesn't look good." McChesney had provided much of the expertise in answering questions about the proposed amendment in the absence of anyone from the District of Columbia.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntrey, who came here last week with City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker and lobbied in behalf of the measure, did not come back to lobby the Senate because, according to a spokesman for him, "of hte uncertainty of when the vote would occur."
McChesney and other supporters of the amenment were concerned that the turndown by the California legislature - which likes to characterize itself as the most progressive in the nation - might be interpreted widely as a pivotal rejection of the idea of giving voting representation to D.C. residents.
That clearly was not the case, however, as several senators who voted against waiving the rules said they would likely vote for the proposal on its merits if supporters would give the legislature time to conduct hearings on the matter, and time for them to consult with their constituents.
Sen. Walter E. Stiern (D-Bakesfield) may have sounded the death knell for the proposal when he repeatedly asked Greene during floor debate to tell him "what is so devastating about waiting until Dec. 4 (when the legislature reconvenes)."
"I can't believe what I am hearing," said Greene, turning toward crews from Washington television stations. "For the cameras here from Washington, maybe this will offer an assessment of California for you."
Moments later, the attempt to win ratification was dead.