Bill to merge Homeland Security, Emergency Services dies unexpectedly

After three years of meetings, four committee hearings and one debate on the Assembly floor, Pedro Nava’s AB 38 has received only one No vote. But that vote, from Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, was enough to kill the bill for the year.

Until Tuesday’s hearing of the Public Safety Committee, Nava, D-Santa Barbara, had crafted bipartisan consensus on his measure, which would merge the state Office of Homeland Security and the state Office of Emergency Services. After hours of meetings and negotiations, Nava helped broker a deal that both agencies supported. The bill also had backing from the governor, local governments, first responders and other major stakeholders.

The bill passed through Assembly Governmental Organization on a 14-0 vote, moved through Assembly Appropriations 17-0, and off the Assembly floor, 75-0. The bill seemed fast-tracked for the governor’s signature as recently as June 26, when it passed out of Senate Governmental Organization 8-0.

Then things got strange.

Instead of moving on to Senate Appropriations, the measure was re-referred back to Senate Rules. That committee, which is chaired by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, can determine whether bills live or die by referring a bill, or refusing to refer it, to a particular committee. Among those who sit on the Rules Committee is Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles. Perata pushed the bill to Senate Public Safety, which is chaired by Romero and where Cedillo also is a member.

There are only five members of Senate Public Safety — two Republicans and three Democrats. During Tuesday’s hearing, Romero and Cedillo raised questions about the measure. Romero said she was concerned the new agency would not have a clearly defined mission, while Cedillo said wanted to be sure it would not seek to intimidate undocumented immigrants.

Both of the panel’s Republicans, Sens. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, and Bob Margett, R-Gledora, voted for the bill. Romero voted No, and Cedillo and Mark Ridley Thomas, D-Los Angeles, abstained. Since this week is the deadline for Assembly bills to clear policy committees in the Senate, Tuedsay’s vote effectively killed AB 38 for the year.

For his part, Nava said he was “shocked and stunned to see the level of resistance” from the two Senators. “The first time I learned about the depth of their concerns was

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