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Vernon disincorporation bill advances

July 6, 2011 |  4:24 pm

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a8e7edf9970b-pi Assembly Speaker John Pérez secured an important -- but narrow -– victory Wednesday in his effort to disband Vernon despite strong opposition from local business owners and labor groups as well as objections from some fellow lawmakers.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee voted 5 to 3 in favor of AB 781, a bill designed to offer protections to businesses located in Vernon in the event of disincorporation. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) sponsored the bill as a companion to AB 46, which would eliminate Vernon’s cityhood and make the area an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County.

Vernon business owners and union leaders have strongly opposed both bills, saying they would disrupt the local economy and lead to job losses. The 5.2-square- mile city, just south of downtown L.A., is home to an estimated 1,800 businesses and 50,000 jobs.

“These are not hollow threats, these are just the real consequences of this bill… AB 781 is our worst nightmare,” said Greg Longstreet, chairman of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce and president and chief executive of Farmer John Meats. “We will lose the essential services that have drawn us to the city.”

The business owners and labor leaders have joined the city in asking the Legislature for more time to reform Vernon’s government. The coalition has also argued that AB 46 would violate the state Constitution.

Pérez, however, has so far refused to back down. On Wednesday he said he remains convinced that disincorporation is “the only way to achieve a truly independent electorate” in Vernon, a city of fewer than 100 residents that has rarely held competitive elections.

Pérez also said he was frustrated by the criticism of AB 781, which, he contended, addresses the key concerns raised by the city’s business community. The legislation would establish a new special district to provide services to businesses, maintain taxes and utility rates and form two community advisory panels to oversee land-use and municipal affairs.

The committee’s vote on AB 781 was closer than on previous considerations of AB 46, which received overwhelming support in the Assembly.

State Sen. Carol Liu (D-Glendale) abstained, saying she was wary of transferring Vernon’s government operations to Los Angeles County and uneasy about the drastic nature of the plan.

“You certainly have gotten everyone’s attention,” Liu said to Pérez during the hearing. “There just seems to be this deluge of folks who are really opposed.”

Pérez received the five votes he needed to move the bill forward from the other Democrats on the committee. Three Republican senators who opposed AB 46 also voted against AB 781.

The two bills are likely to be brought before the full Senate sometime next month, according to John Vigna, a spokesman for Pérez’s office. If they are approved and signed into law, Vernon would become the first charter city to be disincorporated by the  Legislature.

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 --Sam Allen

Photo: Assembly Speaker John Pérez. Credit: Associated Press

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Greg Longstreet was general manager of Farmer John Meats.

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