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Two Democrats changed their vote Thursday, leaving Assemblyman Tony Mendoza of Artesia as the only party member not to support Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez's bill to dissolve the city of Vernon in Los Angeles County.

Pérez is pushing Assembly Bill 46 as a top legislative priority for him, but the bill is opposed by a powerful team of labor and business groups, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat, said the city of fewer than 100 residents is so small that there are no effective checks and balances against what he calls an "unacceptable and unprecedented level of corruption" in Vernon.

Seventy-two of the Assembly's 79 members were registered earlier this month as co-authors of AB 46, but only 58 voted yes in Thursday's roll call, indicating that a blistering lobbying campaign is taking a toll.

Once the measure's fate was decided Thursday, four Assembly members changed their vote from an abstention to a yes: Democrats Tom Ammiano of San Francisco and Mary Hayashi of Castro Valley, and Republicans Bill Berryhill of Ceres and Jeff Miller of Corona.

The legislative record now shows the bill passing by a vote of 62-7.

Fred MacFarlane, Vernon spokesman, released a letter to Pérez in which nine Republicans listed as co-authors of AB 46 said they no longer support disincorporation of the city that is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the attorney general's office into issues that include massive salaries paid to its leaders in years past.

"Unfortunately, after further review and information gathering, we believe that disincorporation puts at risk thousands of jobs and tens of millions of tax revenues for the state and region," said the Republicans' letter, dated April 27, one day before the Assembly's floor vote. "We cannot support that."

The letter was signed by Assembly Republicans Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Steve Knight of Palmdale, Don Wagner of Irvine, Dan Logue of Linda, Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, Jeff Miller of Corona, Brian Jones of Santee, Bill Berryhill of Ceres, and Jim Nielsen of Gerber.

The waffling of Miller and Berryhill, perhaps, are most intriguing: Initially co-authors of AB 46, they signed the letter saying they no longer support it, then abstained on Thursday's roll call but later changed their vote to yes.

David Cox, Miller's spokesman, said the Corona Republican signed the GOP letter because he did not feel that AB 46 contained adequate job protections. He later voted yes because Pérez expressed a willingness to amend his bill in the future to address such concerns, Cox said.

Berryhill's office did not comment publicly today about his machinations on AB 46.

Mendoza, the only Democrat not to support AB 46, told The Bee that he fears the bill's impact on jobs in Vernon.


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