Brown's final bill decisions defy neat definitions

4:01 AM, Oct 1, 2012   |    comments
Courtesy: Governor's Office
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Gov. Jerry Brown ended the 2012 legislative season Sunday night with a flurry of bill signings and vetoes, a year where it seems he agreed with the Legislature more often than not -- signing 88 percent of what was placed on his desk.

As with most governors, the truly hot button bills were left until the bitter end. And with many of those, the governor seemed to offer a split decision.

Requiring more contemplation for parents who opt out of vaccinating their kids, Brown then rejected forced contemplation for others from health professionals when it comes to getting a flu shot.

Backing the rights of young undocumented immigrants to a driver's license, the governor subsequently rejected the rights of those here illegally and found not a suspect of general crimes to not be handed over to federal authorities.

Rejecting the possibility of a crime against those who don't offer a farm worker heat respite, he then embraced the idea of revisiting crime and punishment for teenagers sentenced to life without parole.

Some of Brown's actions seemed philosophical, others practical. And some clearly appeared political, especially when it came to carefully navigating between the many forces he needs to either enlist... or simply not tick off... for his current campaign to pass Proposition 30, the budget related temporary tax hike.

The governor recently said in a newspaper interview that he'd veto more bills if it was politically possible; no one knows for sure which ones on the 2012 list he'd nix if given free reign.

In several cases, he chastised legislators for not doing a better job of drafting bills, or for an apparent unwillingness to rewrite legislation more to his liking.

"Unfortunately, the author declined to amend the bill," wrote Brown in his Saturday veto of SB 1464 by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, to allow drivers to legally cross the double yellow line (when prudent) to avoid hitting a cyclist.

The governor also continued his penchant for deeming many bills to be unnecessary. In several instances over the weekend, he vetoed legislation because he said there was plenty of oversight already the books.

"This rather terse amendment would codify the obvious without any discernible impact," wrote Brown in his veto of SB 1547 by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. The bill would have made slight tweaks to the enforcement of recycling cans and bottles.

"More is required to earn a place in our public resources code," scoffed the governor at Simitian's plan.

Some bills were clearly the source of intense debate among Brown's small team at the Capitol. His signing on Saturday of SB 1234 by state Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles may have been one of those. The bill calls for a major new system of mandating paycheck deductions from low wage workers to pay for a state-approved retirement system, and was one that late last week sounded to insiders like it was headed for the dustbin -- even after De Leon amended the bill to simply require a study of such a system, rather than actual enactment.

And some decisions, while not matters of great state importance, were fascinating simply because they revealed layers far beyond the obvious. AB 2358 was a GOP led effort to authorize the placement of a Capitol statute honoring California's only president, Ronald Reagan. (The statute will be paid for with private funds.)

"Even in those days he demonstrated courage and unique leadership ability," wrote Brown in A signing message, "even to the point of raising California taxes when he saw they were needed."

The message was rich with historical context. After all, Brown succeeded Reagan as governor in 1975. And it was Reagan who helped shepherd through a big tax hike only upon learning of the fiscal hole left to him by his predecessor -- the late Gov. Edmund "Pat" Brown.


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