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Schwarzenegger signs bill guaranteeing community college transfers to Cal State

Community college students will find it easier to transfer to California’s four-year universities under bills signed Wednesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But he vetoed dozens of others, including one that would have made nursing employment agencies verify a nurse’s fitness to work and another that called for tougher penalties for those who smuggle cellphones into prisons.

Facing a Thursday night deadline to clear his desk of 500 bills, the governor Wednesday vetoed 87 and signed 126, including measures to streamline environmental review rules for construction projects and providing for storage of electricity generated by the sun and wind.

The governor signed tough new rules aimed at protecting hospital patients from radiation overdoses in response to incidents in which more than 260 accidental overexposures were discovered at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. SB 1237 would require hospitals to disclose radiation overdoses during CT scans and to record the doses from all scans on the patient’s medical records. State Sen. Alex Padilla (D- Pacoima), the bill’s author, noted that the dose appears on the computer screen of the CT scan operator, but that there was no requirement to record it so the patient can access the information.

Schwarzenegger signed a measure that requires the California State University system to guarantee admission with junior status to community college students who obtain associate’s degrees tailored to specific majors and who meet all requirements for transfer.

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“Guaranteeing admission into a CSU for any community college student who completes the newly established transfer degree under SB 1440 is a monumental step forward for California’s higher education system,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

According to the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy, 73% of California college students attend community colleges. But only 22.7% of those who intend to transfer to four-year universities achieve that goal, said Padilla, author of the measure.

He said the inconsistent and ever-changing coursework requirements for transfers frustrate students. The bill, Padilla said, “will better align our higher education system, saving students time [and] money.”

Separate legislation signed by the governor calls for the University of California to examine creating a similar transfer pathway; AB 2302 is by Assemblyman Paul Fong (D- Cupertino).

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The governor vetoed a measure that would have required licensed nursing employment agencies to verify whether a nurse was fit to work. The bill was introduced in response to reports in The Times that the temp agencies are an unregulated magnet for problem nurses.

Schwarzenegger said that he has taken action to improve oversight by the state Nursing Board and that he vetoed SB 1119 because it was not strong enough.

The bill, by Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), “only seeks to extend the same weak and ineffective policies that are preventing the board from carrying out its mission to protect the public,” the governor wrote.

Schwarzenegger said his own legislative fix was killed in committee amid opposition from nurses union officials, and he called on lawmakers to enact “strong, meaningful enforcement measures that protect patients instead of protecting problem nurses.”

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The governor also vetoed a measure that would have reduced the fine for violations involving turning right on a red light from $100 to $35. Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said his AB 909 was meant to reverse a previous increase in fines for failing to stop correctly before turning right on red. Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, saying “a driver running a red light, whether they are traveling straight, or turning right, makes a very dangerous traffic movement that endangers the nearby motoring public, bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Schwarzenegger also vetoed a measure by Padilla that would have made it a misdemeanor to smuggle a cellphone or wireless texting device into prison, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. The law would have applied to prison employees and visitors as well as inmates. Padilla noted that the prison system confiscated more than 2,600 cellphones from inmates in 2008, which he said represent a security risk.

But Schwarzenegger said in his veto message that the measure did not make it a crime for an inmate to simply possess a cellphone if there is no intent to distribute it, and he said the punishment is too small.

“It is inexcusable to treat the threat of wireless communications devices in prisons so lightly,” he wrote. “Signing this measure would mean that smuggling a can of beer into a prison carries with it a greater punishment than delivering a cellphone to the leader of a criminal street gang.”

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Padilla said fellow legislators won’t approve new felony laws because of prison overcrowding. The veto, he said, means “the governor is condoning an environment that has allowed people to provide cellphones to inmates with impunity.”

Schwarzenegger also vetoed AB 2540 by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate). The bill would have outlawed the health insurance industry practice of collecting premiums from a customer until the person gets sick, then rescinding coverage by claiming the customer provided false or incomplete information when applying for coverage.

Schwarzenegger said the bill was unnecessary because the issue is covered in the federal healthcare reform package and other legislation he plans to sign.

Among the other bills the governor signed was one requiring utilities to invest more in technology to store electricity generated by renewable sources. A key problem with solar and wind energy facilities is that they’re not always in operation, making it difficult to rely on them. AB 2514 by Nancy Skinner (D- Berkeley) directs the Public Utilities Commission to set standards for the amount of energy that utilities have to store.

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Other bills signed by the governor will:

• Require the Department of Public Health to regulate the process used by sperm banks to separate healthy sperm from samples provided by HIV-positive donors. AB 1487 is by Assemblyman Hill.

• Require all new schools to be built with doors to classrooms and offices that lock from the inside. The move is meant to save lives in the event of a school shooting. AB 211 is by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia).

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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jack.dolan@latimes.com


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