Governor vetoes most of 121 bills

  • 10/1/2004
  • Lynda Gledhill
  • San Francisco Chronicle

Governor vetoes most of 121 bills
One to let drug offenders get food stamps gets his signature

- Lynda Gledhill, John M. Hubbell, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Sacramento -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, on his last day to sign or veto bills from the most recent legislative session, rejected most of the 121 remaining proposals Thursday, including a bill that would have given journalists more access to the state's troubled prison system.

He also vetoed a bill that would have offered car buyers new protections and a measure designed to curb steroid use by young athletes. He pleased poverty rights advocates, however, by signing a bill that will allow convicted drug felons to become eligible for food stamps.

The governor's veto of SB1164, which would have allowed reporters face-to- face interviews with prisoners behind bars, upset prison and media advocates.

"I'm very disappointed and surprised," said Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition. "When running for office, the governor made certain pledges about being the open-government governor. This was a key test."

Reporters can interview prisoners only during random tours or regular visiting hours. They cannot use writing materials and audio and video recording devices to conduct prisoner interviews. Schwarzenegger, whose wife, Maria Shriver, is a reporter, said that was sufficient.

Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who carried the bill, said the veto ignored the scandalous conditions in California's prisons.

"Will it take the kind of scandals seen at Abu Ghairib to open our institutions for public scrutiny?" she asked.

With Schwarzenegger's signature on AB1796, California will join 31 states that make convicted drug felons eligible for food stamps.

"California will assist individuals in becoming self sufficient, provide care for their children and overcome their drug addiction while adding millions of federal dollars to our economy," he said.

The governor showed compassion by signing the bill by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said Glenn Backes of the Drug Policy Alliance.

"This is direct action, proving the governor wants to help those who are trying to help themselves," he said.

Consumer advocates were frustrated by other vetoes from Schwarzenegger. He vetoed AB1839 by Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, D-San Fernando, which promised a new level of safeguards for car buyers.

Among other things, the bill called for dealers to disclose a buyer's credit score and capped their fee on five-year loans at 2.5 percent. But Schwarzenegger's veto message said that federal law addressed the concerns about credit scores and that the bill could confuse consumers.

"That's ridiculous," said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, which lobbied for the bill. "There's no requirement they tell you your score and put it in writing."

The governor also rejected a bill that would have required hospitals to report their infection rates and then have those rates be made public. Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, said SB 1487 would have gone a long way to prevent the upwards of 9,000 deaths a year attributed to these types of infections in California.

Also vetoed Thursday:

-- SB1630, also by Speier, would have created a list of banned drugs and supplements for interscholastic sports, authorized drug testing if there was a suspicion a student was using steroids and prohibited supplement manufacturers from sponsoring school events.

"The interests of the supplement makers should not outweigh the well- being of student athletes," said Speier. "It's a shocking and ironic decision coming from a governor who says he supports physical education."

-- AB2466, by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, an attempt to see San Francisco receive what Lee claimed was its rightful share of sales tax revenue from the sale of jet fuel at San Francisco International Airport.

State law says cities with airports should profit from the sales to offset the burden of airports, and Lee's bill aimed to close a loophole under which United Airlines buys all of its jet fuel at the state's airports through an office in Oakland, thereby paying a reduced sales tax rate offered by the city. The governor said a state audit should precede any change in the law, and he encouraged the Legislature to revisit the issue.

-- AB2598 by Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, which would have stopped homeowners associations from foreclosing on homes for small debts. Schwarzenegger, who counts builders as one of his largest campaign contributors, said the goal of the bill was laudable but said all parties should agree on any changes to current law.

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