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Gov. signs gun bills opposed by NRA

Times Staff Writer

Bucking pressure from the gun lobby, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an unprecedented law Saturday requiring that certain pistols sold in the state be equipped to mark each cartridge when fired so police can more easily trace the weapons.

Another signed measure also opposed by the interest group will ban the use of lead ammunition in the habitat of the endangered California condor.

During a busy day in which he signed 101 bills and vetoed 58, the governor rejected a proposal that would have allowed illegal immigrants to qualify for college tuition aid currently enjoyed by other state residents.

Schwarzenegger also took action on several bills passed by the Legislature dealing with food and consumer products:

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* He signed into law a measure requiring bottled-water manufacturers to include labels disclosing the source of the water.

* He approved a bill requiring that trans fats be eliminated from food sold through school vending machines or by private contractors on campuses starting in 2009. That bill, SB 490, was sponsored by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-San Jose).

* He vetoed a bill that would have required disclosure when food products come from cloned animals.

* He approved SB 880, by Sen. Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) and sponsored by athletic-shoemaker Adidas America, that legalizes until 2011 the importation or sale of kangaroo parts or products in the state.

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But the strongest reaction came over the gun issues.

The bill requiring that semiautomatic pistols be equipped with microstamping devices by 2010 is the first in the nation and was signed with some reluctance by the Republican governor.

“While I appreciate and understand that this technology is not without limitations, I am signing this bill to provide law enforcement with an additional tool for solving crimes committed with semiautomatic handguns in California,” Schwarzenegger wrote.

The National Rifle Assn. and other gun owner groups had vigorously opposed AB 1471, by Assemblyman Michael Feuer (D-Los Angeles), as well as the law banning lead ammunition in condor habitats. Proponents of the latter bill said birds have died from lead poisoning after feeding on carcasses of animals left by hunters.

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Dexter Haight, an NRA volunteer coordinator from Ramona, was shocked that Schwarzenegger signed the two bills.

“I’m appalled,” Haight said. “The condor bill is not based on scientific evidence, and the microstamp is a feel-good thing that isn’t going to work.”

But Feuer said “this will help catch killers.” He added that he has had inquiries from other states and from members of Congress who may be willing to follow California’s lead.

The legislation was one of several bills introduced this year in response to a spike in gun violence last year in Los Angeles.

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The governor’s veto of SB 1, dubbed the California Dream Act, marked the second time in two years that he had rejected a proposal by Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) to extend college financial aid to illegal immigrants.

The legislation would have made California high school graduates who met the nonresident in-state tuition requirements eligible for the Cal Grant financial aid program and a fee waiver at community colleges.

Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure, citing its cost.

“At a time when segments of California public higher education, the University of California and the California State University, are raising fees on all students attending college in order to maintain the quality of education provided, it would not be prudent to place additional strain on the General Fund to accord the new benefit of providing state subsidized financial aid to students without lawful immigration status,” Schwarzenegger wrote in his veto message.

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Cedillo said he had support for the bill from college administrators.

“The governor has basically said today that immigrants can do the hardest and most dangerous jobs in California, but they are not allowed to dream for a better future,” the senator said.

Cedillo said the governor objected last year to a version of the bill that might have allowed some illegal immigrants to get financial aid before all qualified legal residents received aid. But the senator said the new bill required that all requests by legal residents be filled before aid could be made available to others.

The governor took a selective approach to a number of consumer protection bills Saturday.

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He signed legislation that requires bottled water sold in containers to include on its label information disclosing the source of the water, including whether the source is the public water supply.

Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) sponsored the bill, SB 220, amid concern that the public was sometimes paying high prices for tap water put through an additional refining process by bottlers.

The governor also said he was signing legislation that will potentially reduce the costs college students face in buying textbooks. AB 1548 by Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) will require publishers and college bookstores to disclose the price of books to faculty members when they are deciding which books to require of their students.

The governor vetoed a bill by Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) that would have required manufacturers to label food that includes the product of a cloned animal or its progeny. In his veto message, the governor said SB 63 is preempted by federal law.

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He also used his veto to kill legislation that would have required retailers and government agencies to take additional steps to protect consumer information from costly security breaches. Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) accused the governor of siding with big business over consumers in vetoing AB 779.

“I’m shocked and disappointed that the governor thinks our personal information should be left out in the open for identity thieves and hackers to pilfer,” Jones said.

Schwarzenegger said the bill “attempts to legislate in an area where the marketplace has already assigned responsibilities and liabilities that provide for the protection of consumers.”

Another bill that had sparked some controversy was SB 886, which the governor signed. It allows the South Coast Air Quality Management District to extend the term of its chairman, William Burke, who otherwise would have been removed by term limits in January.

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Burke, the president of the Los Angeles Marathon, is the husband of Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke, and formerly headed a campaign committee that has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to state lawmakers.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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