Gov. George Deukmejian, a longtime critic of the California Coastal Commission, has vetoed two bills aimed at giving the agency more power to crack down on illegal development.
Supporters of the legislation anticipate that the proposals will be revived next year, will again clear the Legislature and get a more sympathetic reception from the next governor.
In rejecting two measures by Sen. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles), Deukmejian said the Coastal Commission "already has adequate enforcement powers against violators if used in a prudent and rational manner."
The veto messages by Deukmejian, who decided not to seek reelection this year, were released last weekend.
One of Rosenthal's bills would have given the commission the power to impose fines and issue cease-and-desist orders without going to court when ongoing violations of coastal development procedures are occurring.
The other bill would have required the panel to develop and implement a comprehensive enforcement program, in part to determine where illegal activity is taking place.
In vetoing the bill that would have allowed the commission to impose fines and issue cease-and-desist orders, Deukmejian repeated objections that he raised last year, when he vetoed a similar measure. The governor said he appreciated the aim of Rosenthal's efforts, but said he does not believe the commission "should have the sole authority" to stop illegal projects and levy substantial fines.
Deukmejian rejected the second Rosenthal bill as unnecessary. He said that rather than devise a comprehensive enforcement program, the commission should focus on completing local coastal development plans that have not been written for large sections of the coast.
Jack Liebster, a spokesman for the commission, maintained that the panel needs expanded enforcement authority, citing a backlog of more than 700 pending cases. "Putting teeth in the law would create a deterrent to this abuse. We hope the Legislature speedily passes this legislation again in the new session," Liebster said.
Gordon Hart, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, said that based on the environmental records of the two major party gubernatorial candidates--Republican Pete Wilson and Democrat Dianne Feinstein--either one probably would look more kindly on proposals to beef up enforcement. "It will be much easier" next year for the measures to become law, he predicted.
Hart assailed Deukmejian's vetoes "as yet another expression of the governor's irrational vendetta against an important environmental protection agency."
The commission has been a favorite target of Deukmejian's since he took office in 1983. Unable to abolish the panel and turn its duties over to local government, Deukmejian has drastically reduced its budget and staff.
In a prepared statement, Rosenthal said: "The governor has had a longstanding aversion to the Coastal Commission, but I am surprised that he has allowed it to color his decision on this legislation."
Rosenthal charged that weak enforcement during Deukmejian's Administration has led to parts of the coast being damaged beyond repair.
A spokeswoman for Rosenthal said the senator, whose district covers much of the Westside, is fully committed to introducing even stronger versions of the same measures in the next legislative session.