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Gray's Vetos

GRAY DAVIS HAS MANY REASONS to veto a bill. It might cost too much, it might annoy a special-interest group that gives him campaign money, it might scare him. CHRISTINE PELISEK examined a few of the 275 bills that Davis killed last year.

RIGHT TO PROTEST NONVIOLENTLY

Author: State Senator Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles)

Purpose of the bill: Nonviolent protesters now face county-jail sentences of 90 days to one year and fines up to $1,000. Senate Bill 1796 would have capped penalties at $100 and a maximum of two days in county jail for nonviolent civil disobedience, including trespassing (not on residential properties), unlawful assembly and public nuisance.

Reason for veto: Could lead to more jury trials and appeals and increase the cost of government.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COURT TASK FORCE

Author: State Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park)

Purpose of the bill: Cases of domestic violence are on the rise, and only limited information is available on the effectiveness of court procedures to stop them. Assembly Bill 2652 would have established a Domestic Violence Court Task Force to assess the day-to-day operations of domestic-violence courts and recommend improvements.

Reason for veto: $100,000 cost to the general fund too high.

PROTECTIONS FOR GAY TEENS IN FOSTER CARE

Author: State Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park)

Purpose of the bill: AB 2651 would have protected gay foster children from harassment or abuse by their foster parents and required the state Department of Social Services to increase education programs to include sexual-orientation sensitivity training. The bill also authorized the Department of Social Services to recruit gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults to become foster parents for children with similar sexual orientations.

Reason for veto: Department of Social Services already stretched too thin.

IMPROVING CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY

Author: State Senator Martha Escutia (D-Montebello)

Purpose of the bill: SB 783 would have made corporate officers and directors eligible for civil penalties of up to $100,000 if they did not notify the state attorney general or a government agency of fraud within their firm. The measure also provided employees with a whistle-blower hot line run by the attorney general. Critics say Davis deferred to the oil industry and manufacturers organizations that said that executives had the right to stay silent and should not be required to speak even if they knew about the fraud.

Reason for veto: Places liability on an employee who did not actually commit the wrongful act.

SLAPP SUITS

Author: State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles)

Purpose of the bill: SB 789 would have made it more difficult for big companies to sue the little people who publicly oppose them. Davis' signature would have made it easier for lawyers to fight anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) motions by corporations, which claim that their activities are protected commercial speech.

Reason for veto: Interferes with the court's discretion, saying the claims should be examined on a case-by-case basis.

PROTECTING SACRED INDIAN SITES

Author: State Senate Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco)

Purpose of the bill: SB 1828 would have given Native American tribes the chance to challenge projects by developers and public agencies that might harm sacred Indian sites. Tribes would have been notified of any proposals within a 20-mile radius of their lands in case the project might infringe on hallowed ground. The measure was partially written at the behest of the Quechan Indian Nation, which has been trying to prevent a gold mine from opening up near the Indian Pass area, a place the tribe considers sacred. Although supported by 50 California tribes, the sacred-sites-protection legislation was heavily opposed by businesses that believe that the bill could provide the legal means to stop statewide development. ä

Reason for veto: Gives tribes too much power over the California Environmental Quality Act process.

SAFE DRINKING WATER

Author: State Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Los Angeles)

Purpose of the bill: AB 1972 would have made consumers more aware of the health risks of contaminants found in drinking water. The levels of contaminants are now made public only when they exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) set by the state Department of Health Services. The measure would have required water systems to report contaminants that exceed their public-health goals.

Reason for veto: Cost of $75,000 too high; might overstate health risks.

RECYCLING TVS

Author: State Senator Byron Sher (D-Stanford)

Purpose of the bill: SB 1523 would have created a fund to pay for the recycling of thousands of televisions and computer monitors that are discarded daily in California. The bill would have added $10 to the sale price of every computer and television set sold in California beginning in 2004 and would have encouraged manufacturers, retailers and nonprofit groups to create recycling programs. Environmental groups say most people do not know that it is illegal to dispose of televisions and computers through regular trash pickup.  

Reason for veto: Can't support creating 64 state jobs and a bureaucracy to run the program.

PROTECTION FROM RADIOACTIVE WASTE

Author: State Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles)

Purpose of the bill: SB 1970, the Radiation Safety Act of 2002, would have stopped companies from disposing of radioactive waste in the state's 170 landfills. Instead, the waste would have been shipped to dumps licensed to handle such waste. The bill also would have barred businesses from recycling low-grade radioactive waste into consumer products. Nuclear-weapons contractors and biotech companies vigorously opposed the bill.

Reason for veto: Costs hundreds of millions of dollars and impairs new medical procedures and biomedical-research development.

DRIVERS' LICENSES FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

Author: State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles)

Purpose of the bill: AB 60 would have permitted immigrants to obtain a driver's license, as long as they were residents of California and in the process of becoming citizens, had passed criminal-background checks, and had federal taxpayer numbers. When Davis vetoed similar legislation last year, he said he would revisit the issue if law-enforcement concerns were met. Latino politicians accused Davis of breaking his promise.

Reason for veto: Permits people with outstanding warrants, including murderers and people wanted for espionage and treason, to get a drivers' license.

HYPODERMIC NEEDLES

Author: State Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara)

Purpose of the bill: SB 1785 would have allowed pharmacists to sell up to 30 hypodermic needles to adults without a doctor's prescription. The law now requires a prescription to buy syringes. AIDS activists said the legislation would have reduced the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases at no cost to taxpayers by permitting drug addicts to purchase clean needles.

Reason for veto: Undermines local control of needle-exchange programs and could increase the number of contaminated needles and syringes in public areas.

PUBLIC-INFORMATION REQUESTS

Author: State Assemblyman Kevin Shelley (D-San Francisco)

Purpose of the bill: AB 822 would have punished public agencies that illegally deny the public access to public records. For the third year running, Davis rejected a plan to have the state attorney general review denials of requests for government records and pay those denied $100 for each day a record was improperly withheld.

Reason for veto: Sets up a conflict for the Attorney General's Office, which now must defend agencies that break the state Public Records Act.

PROTECTION FOR GOVERNMENT ATTORNEYS

Author: State Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento)

Purpose of the bill: AB 363 stems from the case of state Department of Insurance attorney ä Cindy Ossias, who disclosed documents two years ago to a legislative committee looking into alleged wrongdoing by former Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush. At the time, Quackenbush attempted to fire Ossias, and the State Bar investigated her for violating client-confidentiality rules. She was cleared by the bar and given back her job by interim Commissioner Harry Low. The legislation would have sheltered government attorneys from professional discipline and the loss of their license for divulging clients' confidential information. Other public employees who expose wrongdoings are already protected from workplace retaliation.

Reason for veto: Davis wrote that "our legal system depends on the fundamental duty of confidentiality owed by lawyers to their clients."

INCREASING DOCTORS' PAY FOR TREATING THE POOR

Author: State Senator Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno)

Purpose of the bill: SB 1644 would have increased state pay to doctors and dentists who treat patients in communities serving a high number of Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Poochigian said the Central Valley lacks adequate health-care services for the poor because of low pay for the doctors who treat them. A study examining the relationship between Medi-Cal reimbursement rates and access to care would have been undertaken.

Reason for veto: Other medical providers would want money, too.

WORKPLACE RACE AND GENDER NUMBERS

Author: State Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles)

Purpose of the bill: AB 1309 would have forced businesses and labor groups with 100 or more employees or members to annually submit diversity reports on race and gender to the state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The reports would be available to the public so people could determine how well a community's composition was reflected. This would help workers who suspected discrimination in the hiring process.

Reason for veto: Records should be confidential.

CREATING A MENTAL-HEALTH COMMISSION

Author: State Assemblywoman Helen Thomson (D-Davis)

Purpose of the bill: AB 1422 would have established the California Mental Health Advocacy Commission with the goal of improving access to mental-health services and combating any discrimination associated with mental illness.  

Reason for veto: State Department of Mental Health already stretched too thin.

CREATING AN OFFICE OF HOMELESSNESS

Author: State Senate Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco)

Purpose of the bill: SB 1654 would have placed a state Office of Homelessness in the Governor's Office, charged with coordinating services to the homeless, identifying gaps in the delivery of services and making annual recommendations for improving homeless services.

Reason for veto: Annual operating cost of $500,000 too high.

PROTECTION OF FARM WORKERS

Author: State Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes (D-Fresno)

Purpose of the bill: AB 325 would have prohibited farmers and labor contractors from charging workers fees to cash paychecks and to ride in vans to the fields.

Reason for veto: Impractical to ask an employer not to charge a fee for cashing a paycheck.

INTERNET-SERVICE RULES

Author: State Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes (D-Fresno)

Purpose of the bill: AB 1814 would have required Internet service providers to give consumers 30-day advance warning before terminating their service.

Reason for veto: Fails to allow for circumstances in which the disruption of service is outside a provider's control.

PATERNITY FRAUD

Author: State Assemblyman Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles)

Purpose of the bill: AB 2240 would have helped men who, after failing to contest an order to pay child support, learn through DNA tests that they could not have fathered the child.

Reason for veto: Might interfere with federal funding.


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