Legislative maneuver puts Channel One back on track

Backers of Channel One scored a legislative coup Wednesday, using a rarely enforced Assembly rule to defeat a bill that would ban the for-profit news-and-advertising program from California public schools.

A week after the proposed ban passed the Assembly Education Committee, Channel One supporters succeeded in sending the measure back to thepanel. This time, the committee rejected it.

“This is not a matter of procedure,” Sen. Art Torres, D-Los Angeles, angrily protested. “It’s a matter of money. There have been millions of dollars spent on lobbying on this bill.”

Torres’ bill would prohibit school districts from signing contracts that provide for the broadcasting of ads to students during school hours.

Channel One is a 12-minute current events program supplied to schools about 192 days a year by the Whittle Communications Corp. The show includes two minutes of ads.

Schools that contract with the company are loaned television monitors, a satellite dish and other video equipment.

Torres has carried similar measures the last two years. Last week was the first time it passed the Assembly Education Committee. The June 30 vote to send it to the Assembly floor was 10-4.

However, one committee member complained that the vote was conducted improperly. In an unusual move, Assemblyman David Knowles, R-Cameron Park, got the bill sent back to the committee.

Knowles, R-Cameron Park, said the roll was wrongly left open to allow committee members to add their votes after there was no longer a quorum of the committee.

“It violated all of our rules in this house,” said Knowles, even though he acknowledged the practice is done routinely as a courtesy to lawmakers.

On Wednesday, the bill received a 5-4 vote, four short of the nine yes votes needed to pass the 17-member committee.

Torres said he may try again next week, but it isn’t clear whether he can get the votes. Torres said Whittle Communications, which has spent more than $ 1 million lobbying against the bill, stands to lose “hundreds of millions of dollars” if his bill passes.

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