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Gov. Acts on Last of New Bills

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger finished evaluating the year’s crop of legislation Saturday by requiring landlords to give 60 days’ eviction notice, banning people from riding in the trunks of cars and stopping vintners from associating their wine with Sonoma County except under certain conditions.

Acting on the last of 1,172 bills sent to him this year by the Democratic-led Legislature, Schwarzenegger vetoed measures that would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain financial aid for college, would have granted journalists broad access to interview inmates in the state’s troubled prison system, would have allowed farmers to grow industrial hemp and would have prevented untrained individuals from buying ultrasound machines for personal use.

All told, Schwarzenegger approved 910 measures. He rejected 262, or 22% of the legislation he considered, a veto rate 2 percentage points lower than that of his first two years. But that statistic does not capture the degree of collaboration that marked the election-year lawmaking session.

The Republican governor and the Democrats agreed to increase the minimum wage, expand regulation of pharmaceutical companies and greenhouse gas polluters, and allow phone companies to compete with cable companies in providing pay television service.

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“There has been a tangible difference in the way the administration has done business, and for the most part it’s been a change for the better,” said state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto).

Saturday was the last day under law that Schwarzenegger could act on bills sent to him by lawmakers before their adjournment in August. On the final day, the governor:

* Ordered a reduction in the amount of lead permissible in pipes and other plumbing that carry water for people to drink. Lead can damage the developing brains and organs of young children. AB 1953 by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan (D-Alameda) will reduce the current 8% limit to 0.25%.

* Extended a law requiring landlords to give tenants 60 days’ notice for evictions if the tenants have occupied their residence for at least a year. AB 1169 by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico (D-Newark) expires in 2010.

“As a landlord for many years, I am acutely aware of the burdens faced by property owners and managers,” Schwarzenegger wrote in a message that accompanied his signing of the measure. “That said, California faces significant challenges in its housing market, and I believe that [the bill] strikes a reasonable balance between the needs of tenants and those of property owners.”

* Prohibited the sale of wine carrying a name or label suggesting that the product is made in Sonoma County unless 75% of the grapes used come from there. SB 1280 was sponsored by Sen. Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata).

* Required wireless computer networking equipment to include warnings explaining how consumers can protect their personal information over the airwaves. AB2415 was sponsored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles).

* Banned people from riding in the trunks of cars. Law enforcement officials say teenagers have engaged in the practice, known as “trunking,” in efforts to evade provisional-license restrictions on carrying passengers younger than 20.

Last year two teenagers riding in a trunk in Glendora were thrown onto the highway when the car hit a divider; they were run over and killed. AB 1850 by Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia) adds a point on the motorist’s driver’s license and carries fines from $370 for a first offense to $900 for a third violation.

* Allowed oral surgeons to perform plastic surgery such as face lifts and lip augmentation. Schwarzenegger vetoed a version of the measure two years ago. The issue had sparked a major turf battle between physicians and the oral surgeons, who are dentists with operating room expertise. The bill is SB 438 by Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco).

* Required large supermarkets to set up a system for customers to recycle plastic bags. AB 2449 was sponsored by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys).

For the second year in a row, Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have allowed journalists to be granted individual interviews with specific prisoners. SB 1521 by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) had won the backing of not only Democrats but also nearly every Republican in the Assembly. Many said that although they did not want to give criminals a public platform, the problems with California’s prisons were so substantial that wider access was justified.

Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message. “I do not believe violent criminals should be able to traumatize their victims a second time by having unfettered access to the media.”

On Saturday, his administration announced new regulations permitting journalists to interview nonviolent offenders in some cases.

The governor rejected legislation to have California join a campaign by states to elect presidents by a national popular vote instead of by the Electoral College. AB 2948 by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim) was intended to compel contenders to campaign everywhere and not just primarily in swing states.

Schwarzenegger also rejected a measure that would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain financial aid for college.

“While I do not believe that undocumented children should be penalized for the acts of their parents, this bill would penalize students here legally by reducing the financial aid they rely on to allow them to go to college and pursue their dreams,” the governor wrote in his veto message for SB 160 by Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles.)

Schwarzenegger declined to sign a measure requiring that half of all cars and trucks sold in California be powered by alternative fuels by 2020. He said AB 1012 by Assemblyman Joe Nation (D-San Rafael) would have cost the state more than $1.2 billion in federal transportation funding.

In addition, the governor refused to allow California farmers to grow industrial hemp.

Although AB 1147 by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) would have permitted only hemp that was free of the chemical that is found in marijuana, Schwarzenegger said in his veto message that the measure conflicted with federal law and would have made it harder for law enforcement to keep track of illegal drug crops.

Schwarzenegger declined to give his blessing to the 2004 sale by the Coast Community College District in Orange County of public television station KOCE to a foundation for $8 million in cash, rather than to a Christian network that had offered $25 million in cash. The bill, AB 523 by Umberg, would have sanctioned the sale, but Schwarzenegger said in his veto message that enacting the measure would have been inappropriate because litigation over the sale is pending.

He also refused to ban the purchase of ultrasound machines by people not trained in their use. AB 2360 by Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) had argued that it was improper and potentially dangerous for fetuses to be repeatedly subjected to the machines. Exhibit A for the bill was actor Tom Cruise, who told Barbara Walters in a television interview last year that he had purchased one of the machines to view the baby he was having with Katie Holmes.

jordan.rau@latimes.com


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