California lawmakers are usually way too busy doing absolutely nothing to fight. But it finally happened late Wednesday when two Southern California assemblyman got into a shoving match in Sacramento.

It popped off as the assembly was debating a bill that would eliminate redevelopment agencies but allow cities to keep something like them so long as they kick back some of the cash California schools.

And kick back is a key term here. Irvine Republican Don Wagner compared the bill to a Sopranos insurance scheme:

Let's not buy the insurance that Tony Soprano is selling us.

[The magic happens about 5:20 in].

CRAs are known for spending foolishly even as city coffers suffer. Here in L.A. the local CRA recently authorized $52 million so that billionaire Eli Broad's foundation could build a parking garage next to its planned office and art collection downtown.

Anyway, Anthony Portantino of La Canada Flintridge took offense to the Soprano reference, saying, “As a proud Italian American, I resent that.” He asked for an apology.


I will apologize to any Italians who are not in the mafia and engaged in insurance scams.

Oops. Uncomfortable shuffling in the chamber breaks out.

Wagner tried to explain, but he seemed angry, combative even.

“This is not an attack on anyone,” he said. “This bill is a bait and switch.”

Democrat Warren Furutani of Gardena, known to speak up on minority issues, approached to call Wagner on his stereotyping, and the two appeared to push each other before legislators and staffers intervened.

The episode put the session on hold as San Francisco's Fiona Ma, known for her anti-rave bill, tried to preside and keep order.

The bill ended up passing and will head to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has wanted to eliminate community redevelopment agencies and give the money to the state all along.

Frankly, we're proud of the combatants. They got mad. They got shit done. The legislature also passed an optimistic, “sleight-of-hand” budget just as time was running out and their paychecks were about to be cut off.

At least they weren't napping as usual. (Now there's a stereotype).


LA Weekly