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Skirmish breaks out on Assembly floor during budget debate [Video]

June 15, 2011 |  9:15 pm


Budget debates in Sacramento are often heated, but they don’t often require lawmakers to restrain one another in front of rolling television cameras to prevent them from getting physical.

Except on Wednesday.

It all began when Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) likened a portion of the Democrats’ budget plan, a plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies, to a “Tony Soprano” insurance scheme.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) quickly rose to say that “as a proud Italian American, I resent that and I would respectfully ask the commenter to make an apology to Italian Americans in California."

Wagner retorted, “I will apologize to any Italian Americans who are not in the Mafia and engaged in insurance scams,” to audible murmurs and grumbling in the chamber.

Then Wagner rose again. "My apology, if one is needed, is sincere," he said. "My reference is certainly not one that no one in this room gets… I think my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, especially one who seems to be extraordinarily outraged over this for reasons I don't understand -- my reference is not lost on anyone here. This is not an attack on anyone. This bill is a bait and switch."

Moments later, Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena), who is not Italian American, hustled over to confront Wagner and the two had to be separated by colleagues.

The exchange begins at around the 2:45 minute mark in this video.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

Photo: Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena) is held back by, from left, Assemblymen Manuel Perez (D-Coachella), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), and Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park) as he exchanges words with Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Irvine). Credit: Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee


University leaders assail Democratic budget

Video: Skirmish on the Assembly floor