The two members jawed angrily in each other's faces before Furutani appeared to give Wagner a shove, prompting several colleagues to separate them in the final minutes of Wednesday's budget session.
The dispute brought the house to a standstill for a couple minutes during debate over a controversial redevelopment plan.
The two-bill proposal compels redevelopment agencies to backfill state coffers and give money to local governments under threat of elimination. Wagner, R-Irvine, testified that it was comparable to a Sopranos shakedown scheme, referring to the popular HBO show, "The Sopranos."
That prompted Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, to demand an apology for the Sopranos reference "as a proud Italian American."
Wagner retorted that he'd "apologize to any Italian Americans who are not in the Mafia and engaged in insurance scams," setting off a murmur among lawmakers.
Minutes later, Furutani and Wagner were in each other's faces and had to be broken up by three other lawmakers. The back of the Assembly chamber was soon flooded with legislative aides who came to see the commotion.
The California Channel has footage of the debate and confrontation here. (Confrontation begins around the 5:17 mark.)
Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, an Italian American, also talked to Wagner about his comments. Gatto said he wasn't offended by the first Sopranos reference but that the apology was offensive.
"He came and talked with me afterward, and he still does not seem to understand why it came out so wrong," Gatto said. "I told him to watch the tape."
Furutani, who is not Italian American, didn't want to say much. "Some things were said that I don't think should have been said," he noted.
Wagner said later, "Mr. Furutani and I were discussing the issue and it's over. It's cool."
Both redevelopment bills ultimately passed and went to Gov. Jerry Brown, who had proposed eliminating the agencies altogether.
No fights broke out in the Senate, but lawmakers offered colorful commentary there as well.
One opponent, Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, said, "Now, in South Central L.A. we call that extortion. I'm not sure what you call it in Sacramento, but in South Central, that's extortion. If you don't give me your money, then I shoot you in the head. That's extortion plain and simple."
Torey Van Oot and Hector Amezcua contributed to this report.
PHOTO CREDIT: Assemblymen Don Wagner, R-Irvine, far left with yellow tie, and Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, center with white shirt, are separated by three Democratic colleagues, V. Manuel Pérez of Coachella, center left in glasses; Jerry Hill of San Mateo, center with back to the camera; and Rich Gordon of Menlo Park, far right with his hands on Furutani's shoulders, during an Assembly budget debate on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee