But the bill, SB 331, could never overcome the belief by some that it would be used against hundreds of California Indians banished from their tribes, often wealthy gambling tribes.
To put those fears to rest, the Assembly Appropriations Committee this month added an amendment that declared the measure would not apply to former members of a tribe. Barona promptly dropped the bill.
"The intent was to protect the tribes, specifically Barona, from unwanteds on the reservation, " said Sheilla Alvarez, the tribe's director of government affairs. "The intent was never to get involved with the disenrollment issue."
Although Barona has not disenrolled any members, the sequence of events and the decision to abandon the legislation on the brink of final passage have fanned lingering suspicions.
"It was a really odd bill, especially when you consider that tribes already have the authority to do certain things to deal with trespassing, " said John Gomez, one of some 400 people disenrolled by the Pechanga band of Temecula. "Hopefully it's finally dead."
Barona, a 470-member tribe, operates a thriving casino resort on a 7,000-acre reservation near Lakeside. Tribal Chairwoman Rhonda Welch-Scalco said the legislation was developed after meetings with San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, both of whom wrote letters of support.