Food bills among hundreds sent to governor

Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO -- Fast-food restaurants may still fry food in artificial fats, but they’ll have to tell customers about it under measures dispatched by the California Legislature in a final 17-hour day.

The food bills were among hundreds that lawmakers handled before ending their regular session after 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Legislators sent to the governor bills to raise car registration fees by $3, ban smoking in cars carrying children and put the source of water on bottled-water labels.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had already vetoed legislation that would have made California the first state to vote on whether President Bush should immediately withdraw troops from Iraq. The governor called the issue “divisive.”

Late-night casualties in the Legislature included measures that would have protected homes from government takeover and banned the use of certain flame retardants in furniture and bedding.


In a nod to the Capitol adage that no bill ever really dies, those measures and others are expected to be resurrected next year, and lawmakers soon will return to work to negotiate water and healthcare legislation in special sessions called Tuesday by Schwarzenegger.

Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) said he might resume next year pushing for legislation that would bar the government from seizing homes, churches and farmland through eminent domain proceedings. His proposed constitutional amendment, ACA 8, failed to clear the Assembly on Tuesday. But it might be revived, depending upon the fate of two proposed ballot initiatives that would attempt to curtail the power of government to seize private property and turn it over to developers.

“I will be watching with interest what happens this fall,” De La Torre said.

In all, the Legislature passed 962 bills to Schwarzenegger in the session that began in December, more than 200 of them on the final day and many after midnight. The governor has until Oct. 12 to sign or veto them.

Schwarzenegger must weigh whether to require restaurant chains to post calorie content on their menu boards and list fat, salt, carbohydrate and calorie content on printed menus.

“With a stroke of his pen the governor can make California the national leader in nutrition policy,” said Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), author of SB 120.

Lawmakers refused to go further and ban partly hydrogenated artificial fats, or trans fats, from restaurant kitchens. AB 97 by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) failed in the Senate, following an outcry from restaurateurs who argued that they should not shoulder responsibility for rampant heart disease and obesity. Mendoza said he would try again next year.

Car and boat owners would have to cough up a few more dollars a year to register vehicles or avoid a smog check under a sweeping measure intended to raise $200 million annually to encourage use of clean-fuel technology.

Advocates for low-income and minority Californians fought the bill, arguing that increased reliance on corn-based ethanol could boost food prices. But many environmental groups supported AB 118 by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles).

“I think most Californians want to move us away from dependence on oil,” said Bill Magavern, senior representative for Sierra Club California.

Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) faced tough odds in trying to restrict the use of certain flame retardants, and not just because three companies that make the chemicals paid for full-page newspaper ads and television commercials to drum up opposition. Leno has also ruffled feathers in the Senate by deciding to challenge Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) in the June primary election.

Leno argued that by restricting use of chlorinated and brominated flame retardants, his AB 706 would protect people from chemicals that some scientists have linked to fetal brain development disruption. Migden voted for the bill, but it fell two votes shy of passage on the Senate floor.

The state’s politically powerful prison guards union launched a last-ditch effort this week to get the Legislature to hand them raises they have been unable to negotiate with the Schwarzenegger administration. Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City) championed that effort despite strong warnings from Schwarzenegger, but ran out of time and withdrew her bill.

“The Department of Finance doesn’t believe this is the appropriate venue at 3:30 in the morning,” Tom Sheehy, deputy director of legislation for the department, told senators.

The correctional officers group spent more than $425,000 between 2002 and 2006 to help put Garcia in office and keep her there in three campaigns, state filings show. Garcia, who has four prisons in her district, said she was beholden to families of prison guards working mandatory overtime.

“I’m going to run into people who ask me. . . ‘Why can’t you guys do something so that my partner comes home and sleeps in his bed?’ ” she said.

Among the measures that went to Schwarzenegger in the Legislature’s final day were the smoking and bottled-water bills.

SB 7 by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach) would make it an infraction to smoke in a car, moving or not, if children were present. And under AB 1521 by Assemblywoman Mary Salas (D-Chula Vista), labels on bottled water would have to name the source of the water.

In another bill now with the governor, new commercial buildings would have to be designed, built and operated to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and maximize energy efficiency. AB 888, by Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), would take effect in 2013.

The Iraq measure that Schwarzenegger vetoed was SB 924 by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) and would have had no legal effect. The bill sparked lengthy debate in the Legislature and passed without any Republican votes.

It would have asked voters whether Bush should “end the United States occupation of Iraq and immediately begin the safe and orderly withdrawal of United States forces.”