consultant. It was very, very unusual in those days. That would
have gone back to about the early seventies. No, no ...
LABERGE: The sixties.
SAMUEL: Fm sorry. That would have been in the middle sixties when he
was chairman of F&I.
Well, in any event, both bills were moving. Karabian, I
think, had moved his out of committee; I'm not sure. In any
SAMUEL: event, Merv Dymally had his bill set to be heard in the Senate
Rules Committee. Mills was being briefed by John Williamson,
who was the executive officer at the time. I wasn't even there,
but John referred to it jokingly as a Minnie Mouse amendment.
Came the day of the hearing, Mills was a "yes" vote.
However, Merv Dymally had a Mari Goldman working for him.
Mari was a very aggressive young woman. I believe Man's from
England originally. Very aggressive, very outspoken. Mari, who
was lobbying that bill to beat the band, was very active in the
women's community in Sacramento.
She went to Madeline Haskins, who was Mills's executive
secretary, and put a full court press on Madeline. Madeline was
a black woman, very traditional and very put off by Mari's
importuning. She complained to Mills about it.
Came the day of the hearing, Merv Dymally was out of
state, couldn't be there. Mari presented the bill in the senator's
absence, and afterwards Mari and I really had it out. I explained
to Mari, I said, "Any good staff person, when they present a bill
on a member's behalf, always opens with a simple statement to
the effect that the member apologizes for the fact that he or she
cannot be there for the hearing, and if any member of the
committee has a problem with the bill, please put it over until
the member has an opportunity to appear personally. Otherwise,
we'd like to move the bill."
Mari did not make such a statement. There were a lot of
women in the audience to hear the bill. Mari got up and made a
quick statement: "I don't believe there's any opposition," or
SAMUEL: whatever. When it came to the vote, there were two ayes, two
nos. The chairman votes last, and Mills voted no. I couldn't
believe it. I was shocked. Mari ran outside and started
screaming and hollering that, if need be, they would recall Jim
Mills if he didn't change his vote.
Well, Mills got mad. And then Mills did a strange thing.
Not a strange thing. He started talking with people. There was
a Harvard law professor he was talking to. He became
thoroughly knowledgeable about the ERA. He was under
constant attack and his position hardened. I was screaming and
hollering inside his office. I remember at one time saying, "It's
not a bad bill. These women, they're all right." He said, "I know
why you're saying that. They think you're all right because they
know what you're telling me."
Then the Karabian bill came over, came out of the
assembly. At the time, [Assemblyman Charles] Charlie Warren
was chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee and had voted
for it. Mills met with Charlie Warren and his consultant, Herb
Nobriga, who told Mills why it was a bad amendment. There
were a lot of legislators who were voting for it publicly and
privately telling Mills why he was right and why he should hold
fast with his position. And he firmly believed that it was purely
symbolic and didn't amount to anything. The women started a
recall movement against him in his district, and that got his back
up even more.
The one thing that changed his position on it was, I
mentioned Proposition 5 earlier, the one that we had conjured up
SAMUEL: riding our bicycles through Fort Ord. We had a Prop. 5 bicycle
ride planned for the Easter vacation. That was '74. The word
came out that the women were going to boycott the bicycle ride.
And then the question was, what do we do now?
Because the bicycle ride was very important to Mills, we
decided to appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission of leading jurists,
citizens, and attorneys in San Diego, to advise him on the ERA.
We put out a press release saying that Mills had done this. Jerri
Sherwood, who was very active with the women in Sacramento,
came in my office and started screaming and hollering at me that
it was a plot; that the Blue Ribbon Commission was just going to
reaffirm Mills's position. I said, "Just wait until you get the
report," because we thought we knew what the report was going
to say, because the report was supposed to say it's OK to vote for
The report came out. We could never release the report
because it said something to the effect that the ERA really didn't
do anything, that there wasn't any real need for it. So we put
out a press release saying that Mills got the report, and based on
the report and the fact that it was just symbolic, Mills would vote
for the ERA in committee and let it go to the floor so the full
senate could vote on it, but he would not vote for it on the
If it hadn't been for the boycott of the bicycle ride, the ERA
might not have come out of committee. The whole thing never
would have happened if Merv Dymally had been there to present
the bill. And if Mari Goldman had not threatened, right after the
hearing, in the hall, to have a recall election, which immediately
got back to Mills. Once he felt his position was correct, Mills
would seldom change it. I remember one night yelling at him,
"Two wrongs don't make a right," and he wheeled around and
looked at me and said, 'Yes, they do!" I guess he always had an
So that's the story on the ERA.
L\BERGE: Are there other instances like that of. ... Anecdotes like that,
stories that haven't been told?
SAMUEL: Oh sure. The one about the ERA sticks in my memory because I
was there from the very beginning, the women were in my office
all the time, and I was sympathetic. They knew I was
sympathetic, they knew what I was telling Mills. Mills knew
what I was telling them. There were no secrets. And I must say,
he became a real expert. As I say, he was talking to this Harvard
professor constantly on the telephone, and he became more and
more knowledgeable about it. And he was being bolstered by
other senators and assemblymen who had voted for it but didn't
want it to pass.
But he became firmly convinced. In the very beginning, he
was a yes vote, but it was Dymally's staff person who put him in
this comer and wouldn't let him out, and then he became
convinced through all this, "Maybe it's not that good an idea."
As I say, precedent was, Mills had been one of the better
legislators insofar as women were concerned. He always hired a
lot of women. It was interesting. In the Senate Office of
Research, Art Bauer handled transportation issues. A woman was
always hired to assist him, and the women were interviewed by
Mills, too. He was very supportive of women in professional
So I think he got a bad rap on the ERA.
LABERGE: That's because people don't know the story.
SAMUEL: Also, they were totally shocked. And also because at the hearing
he called it a Minnie Mouse amendment. That was because
Williamson, in briefing him, had jokingly referred to it that way.
And Mills, when he saw Mari up there, he just saw red. As I
said, if she had asked the committee, if there were any problems,
to wait until the senator could return. . . .
LABERGE: So in a committee hearing like that, how many extra people are
there, or is it just the members?
SAMUEL: No, it's a public hearing, a roll call vote. The room was packed.
LABERGE: Would you go to those meetings with him, even before you were
executive secretary of the Rules? Would you follow him around
all day, or did you have your own agenda?
SAMUEL: No. I generally wouldn't go. I would go to those hearings where
there was legislation I was working on. As pro tern, he didn't
carry a lot of bills. I would often present his bills for him.
LABERGE: And you knew the right statement to make. [Laughter]
SAMUEL: Generally, because they were pro tern's bills, there was no
statement to make. His bills would go out very fast. If it was a
controversial bill, he would go. Or if he didn't go, I would make
the traditional statement that if there were any problems, please
put the bill over so the pro tern could have an opportunity to
appear in person.
L\BERGE: What kind of legislation did he initiate besides transportation?
We can go into that, too.
SAMUEL: I should mention one piece of transportation legislation because
it's probably one of the most important pieces of legislation, and
it wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been pro tern. That was
75. S.B. 101. That was the legislation that created the
Metropolitan Transportation Development Board of San Diego, the
entity that built and runs the light rail system in San Diego.
That happened only because he was pro tern.
Mills introduced the legislation in 1975, S.B. 101, to create
three special districts-one in Los Angeles, one in Orange County,
and one in San Diego~to build and operate light rail systems.
The legislation got through the senate easily and went to the
assembly. The chairman of the Assembly Transportation
Committee, [Assemblyman] Walter Ingalls, didn't like the bill at
all. He wanted to kill it.
LABERGE: For a specific reason?
SAMUEL: Because he didn't believe in it. He didn't like trains.
He was finally told by the speaker of the assembly, "All
right. Do whatever you want to Mills's bill insofar as it affects
Los Angeles and Orange Counties."
L\BERGE: Is that where Ingalls was from?
SAMUEL: No, Ingalls was from Riverside. The bill created special districts
in Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County.
The speaker told Ingalls, "Do whatever you want in Orange
County to that bill, and in Los Angeles, but whatever Mills wants
in San Diego, he gets. I don't care what it is." That was because
[Assemblyman Leo] McCarthy had to deal with Mills on a variety
of issues and, as far as a trolley system in San Diego, who cares
about that when you're talking about all the other issues that you
have to deal with the pro tern on. It's unimportant. So
essentially, the word was that Mills was to get whatever he
wanted in San Diego, his hometown.
I remember Mills sitting in the office one night saying, "I
sure hope I'm doing the right thing." It is now probably the most
successful light rail system in the world, or at least in the United
States. At one point, it was paying for itself out of the fare box;
fare box recovery now exceeds 90 percent. You probably saw
when Pete Wilson had TV commercials when he was running for
governor, he said he delivered the train on time. Initially, Wilson
opposed that legislation. A lot of people took credit for it. It
was really one person. Mills wanted it badly, and he got it.
Did he get it only for San Diego?
Just for San Diego. Mills is now chairman of the board that runs
the system, appointed by [Governor George] Deukmejian. But as
I said earlier, there's lines Mills will not cross over. They had the
dedication ceremonies for the system. Mills was single-handedly
responsible for it. He wanted it to be called a Light Rail System.
They named it the San Diego Trolley. Mills did not like the
name "trolley," and because it was being called a trolley, refused
to go to the dedication ceremony.
I remember calling him up and having a big argument,
saying, 'You've got to go. You were single-handedly responsible."
"If they're going to call it a trolley, I'm not going." Everyone else
was there taking credit for it. The man who was responsible,
Mills, would not go. When he took a position, he was
immovable at times. Those were good qualities and bad qualities.
But again, he was always true to himself.
LABERGE: Wasn't he on the board of directors for Amtrak?
SAMUEL: He was chairman of the board at one time.
LABERGE: OK. At the same time he was in the senate?
SAMUEL: The same time he was pro tern. He was chairman of Amtrak.
Chairman of the board.
L\BERGE: What other legislation did you present for him?
SAMUEL: There would be district bills, there would be any number of bills.
As I say, he didn't carry a lot of legislation. He carried some
district things, he carried the oral history legislation. And he
carried major transportation bills. Again, in '75, 101 created the
light rail system. That year, he also had a bill to increase the gas
tax by two cents a gallon.
That bill went all the way to the Assembly Ways and Means
Committee where it was killed. One of the members of the
committee came down and apologized for not being able to vote
for the bill because he was ordered not to by the speaker, who
had been asked by the governor to kill the bill. Jerry Brown did
not want a two-cent gas tax increase. Mills was fighting Brown
on that. It's interesting because the speaker did the governor's
bidding on that, and later came to be at real odds with him.
LABERGE: Thaf s what I thought. There wasn't a ...
SAMUEL: Yes, but that was in the beginning. Because the votes were there
for the bill. If the governor had not interfered, that bill would
have been on his desk.
L\BERGE: How do you view the pro tern's position? Do you think the pro
tern should take a leadership position in legislation, or should he
be more of a caretaker and make things run smoothly?
SAMUEL: I think the pro tern should exert some leadership. Where does it
begin and where does it end? I think in recent years what's
happened has been that the leadership people have become fund
raisers, and it's become the leadership's job to raise the money
that elects members.
And then, in a sense, I also think that leadership has too
much power now. When leadership starts electing everyone, then
they become too beholden to leadership. There should be a
balance. The senate has always been more independent than the
assembly anyway, by the very nature of their elections.
Because of the cost of campaigns, the way money has been
raised, the result has been Proposition 140 1 . There's been a
backlash by the voters.
L\BERGE: How would you assess Mills's leadership?
SAMUEL: Probably should have been a little more partisan. He was pro
tern for ten years. That's a long time.
LABERGE: It is a long time.
SAMUEL: It's a long time. I guess, over time, the house changed. He
didn't change enough, and he refused to become as partisan as
was necessary. He refused to raise the money that was required.
And I guess ultimately, if he hadn't been deposed in '80, it would
1. Proposition 140 (November 1990).
have subsequently happened, although Mills had planned to
retire. He wanted two more years. He was planning to run for
lieutenant governor or some other statewide office in 1982. But
he lost the pro-temship in '80. The reason Roberti made the
move when he did, was because [Senator Robert] Bob Presley
wanted to be the next pro tern. That was in the wind too.
It was going to be his last two years as pro tern, then Mills
was going to run for statewide office, be it lieutenant governor or
whatever. Or governor. He probably would have gone for one
of the minor offices. But it did come as a surprise, the coup.
LABERGE: You mentioned Jerry Brown. Maybe you could comment on the
relationship with various governors, and then can go back to
when you first started, because you were there for Pat Brown,
Reagan, and Jerry Brown. And Deukmejian, too, were you still in
Sacramento? You were still in Sacramento when he was, so you
have four governors.
LABERGE: Maybe we could start with how the senate relates to the
governor. Did you see a change between Reagan and Jerry
SAMUEL: There was a great change. It was interesting. Reagan was not
nearly as conservative as he was made out to be. Bob Moretti,
who was speaker at the time, got along very well with him.
Reagan always wanted to compromise.
The interesting thing about Reagan was, you would go into
a meeting with him, and for about the first five minutes he was
great. There would be lots of facts and figures. And then there
would be nothing.
I remember going to work one morning. I was going to
work early, and Mike the flower man said, "Bruce, would you like
to see the governor's office?" So I said, "Sure, Mike." It was
about seven o'clock in the morning. Mike the flower man opened
the side door. We walked back to the governor's office. I said,
"Mike, why is his desk empty?" He said, "It's always like that.
Sometimes there's some pictures there that he autographs, but it's
usually clean like this. But Pat Brown, when he was governor,
he had a big, messy desk." [Laughter] That desk was clean as
L\BERGE: Not many papers that were shuffled or written.
SAMUEL: Not many papers. Reagan was known for the mini memos that
always had to be on one page. As I say, when you went into a
meeting with Reagan, he was very good for a couple of minutes
with facts and figures, and then there wasn't much.
On the other hand, Jerry Brown, when he got into an
issue. ... I remember when he was first elected, we went to
lunch: Mills, myself, and Brown. Marc Poche, my. . . . No, I
think it was just the three of us. Brown said he wanted to create
an ALRB, Agricultural Labor Relations Board 1 . He went on and
on about it, it was very important, and he thought he just might
testify on the legislation himself. He was going to present the
Well, he never did, but that's how involved he was. When
the bill got to the final negotiating stage, he had, late at night-
1. S.B. 1, 1975-76 Third Ex. Sess., Cal. Stat., ch. 1 (1975).
he had two rooms in his office-he had a group of growers in one
room and a group of farm worker types in another room. Brown
was running back and forth between the two rooms negotiating
an agreement. That bill never would have happened without his
total involvement. He totally immersed himself in it.
We never knew when Jerry Brown was going to run into
the office screaming and hollering. He didn't seem to bear any
grudges. We never knew what he was going to do. I always
found him rather likeable. I think a lot of the senators weren't as
impressed with him.
L\BERGE: Would he send messages over asking you to support a bill?
SAMUEL: Oh, sure. He had his legislative people. He had Marc Poche at
the time. Let's see. There was Tony Dougherty who worked on
the senate side. B. T. Collins on the assembly side. And
whenever the governor wanted anything on legislation, he would
send his legislative people up to talk to the pro tern or to myself
and the various senators. . . .
[End Tape 3, Side B]
[Begin Tape 4, Side A]
L\BERGE: So we're talking about Jerry Brown's . . .
SAMUEL: On legislation, the governor had his team of legislative people.
He usually had about four or five people who walked the
legislative halls talking to members and staff.
L\BERGE: So mainly, you negotiated through them as opposed to having
him either call you up or appear in person.
SAMUEL: Oh, yes. You would deal with the governor's staff, and then if
something was really important, then the pro tem or a member
would call the governor. In a situation like that, a staff person
would not call the governor. That would be a member of the
legislature who would deal with the governor. Staff would deal
with staff. A member would deal with the staff and the
governor. Only a member with the governor. The staff would
not deal directly with the governor. However, staff would often
be there when a member would meet with the governor.
L\BERGE: So what would you perceive the relationship between the senate
or the whole legislature and both of those governors?
SAMUEL: There's always a certain rivalry. You go back to the Pat Brown
days when Jesse Unruh and Pat Brown were at war, when they
were trying to do each other in. Early in an administration,
there's usually a very good relationship. As time goes on, it
begins to deteriorate. And then you always have-it's further
complicated - you have two houses, and there's rivalry between
the two houses. If one house has a better relationship with the
governor than the other house, then that creates a certain amount
of jealousy. So it's a three-legged stool.
L\BERGE: How about George Deukmejian?
SAMUEL: George Deukmejian really didn't negotiate. He'd lay down a
position, and that was it. People, I think, were somewhat
hopeful when Deukmejian became governor because he'd been in
the legislature. But he was intractable. He took a position, and
that was it. Not at all proactive. Really reactive. Did not
initiate anything. Compared to Deukmejian, the current governor
[Pete Wilson] is a real breath of fresh air.
L\BERGE: That's interesting, too, because they were both in the legislature.
SAMUEL: But Deukmejian was always intractable. But not as much when
he was a legislator. Although when you're a legislator, there's
got to be more give than when you're governor. Because when
you're a legislator, you're still one of many, and you can be
outvoted. As governor, the only ones who can outvote you are
LABERGE: There was a bill - and I don't know if Mills introduced this or I
just have it as being an issue-asking for the legislative analyst to
study the desirability of a sunset law for the state agencies? This
was in 1977. The reason being that the legislature felt they had
lost power to the agencies, and I wonder if either you could
comment on it, or if you have a recollection. It's actually not a
bill; it was a resolution-S.C.R. 3 1 .
SAMUEL: I don't recall that. I can . . .
LABERGE: Or was that ever an issue for you? The power of the agencies?
SAMUEL: It's an ongoing issue, that kind of legislation. You know it's not
going to go anywhere because the governor is going to veto it.
LABERGE: Here's an issue during Jerry Brown's administration. He was
having trouble getting some of his people approved by the
senate? I read an article that you proposed a solution for this.
SAMUEL: OK. In Congress, at the federal level, when someone is appointed
to a position, when the president makes appointments to top-level
positions, those people may not serve until confirmed by the U.S.
Senate. In California, the old law was that you could take office
immediately and had one year to be confirmed by the senate. If
1. S.C.R. 3, 1977-78 Reg. Sess., Cal. Stat., r. ch. 24 (1977).
no action was taken, the governor could reappoint the person
after the year period elapsed.
So what would happen is the governor would send a
nomination up, and unless the full senate rejected that person-
the senate could reject a person~the person would serve a year,
the year would expire, and the governor would just put the name
in again and the clock would start running for another year. So
it took actual rejection by the senate to prevent a nominee from
serving in the appointed office.
I should probably mention what rejection means, because
when a person's name is put in nomination on the senate floor
that person must get twenty-one votes to be confirmed. If there
are twenty "aye" votes for confirmation, no "no" votes, that
person still is not confirmed. You must get twenty-one "aye"
votes to be confirmed. Anything less means the nominee is
Well, the Senate Rules Committee was getting upset over
the fact that the governor would send up a name and no action
would be taken. They didn't want to embarrass the governor by
rejecting the person; they'd just hold it in the Rules Committee.
And then the next year the name would just be sent up again by
And meanwhile, that person was doing the job.
Yes. Because the minute the person is appointed by the
governor, he'd begin serving.
So the Rules Committee wanted a bill to make it like the
federal system. I'll try to remember what the bill in its original
form said. I think it was patterned after the federal system.
Then we entered into negotiations with the governor's office, and
to be perfectly honest, I'm surprised the governor ever signed the
legislation. The reason he signed it was he was advised to do so
by the people in his office who were doing the negotiations on
his behalf. We ultimately came up with a bill, the current law,
that says if a person is appointed and not confirmed within one
year, that person is out.
I was involved in those negotiations, and to this day I'm
surprised the governor signed the bill. The reason he signed it
was because he was advised to sign it by a trusted aide who was
involved in the negotiations, did the negotiating for the governor,