Brown clearing more than 140 bills ahead of deadline

Clearing his desk of more than 140 bills, Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday barred minors from using tanning beds, required health insurers to include coverage for autism, approved limits on police actions at sobriety checkpoints and rejected legalization of industrial hemp.

Working late to meet a midnight deadline for signing or vetoing legislation this year, Brown had not yet announced his decisions on whether to outlaw the open carrying of handguns in public or to extend $100 million in tax credits to Hollywood productions filmed in California.

Several of the bills he approved affect children, including the one making commercial tanning beds off limits to minors. Existing law allows those who are at least 14 to use an ultraviolet tanning device with written permission from their parents; the new law prohibits use by anyone younger than 18.

Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) said the new rule was needed to protect teens from the risk of adverse health effects, including skin cancer, from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays.

“If everyone knew the true dangers of tanning beds, they’d be shocked,” Lieu said.


SB 746, which takes effect Jan. 1, was supported by the American Cancer Society and the California Medical Assn. It was opposed by the Indoor Tanning Assn., which said that it would hurt an industry that is already highly regulated by taking away minors, who make up 5% to 10% of the business.

Brown also gave children 12 and older the authority to get medical care involving the prevention of sexually transmitted disease without parental consent.

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) sponsored AB 499 to provide young people with timely preventive treatments, including for the human papilloma virus vaccine that proponents say can reduce the risk of certain cancers.

“Requiring parental involvement is not always realistic or safe, and we need to ensure that every young person has the opportunity to utilize life-saving preventive medicine,” Atkins said.

But Randy Thomasson, president of the conservative group, called the bill a declaration of war on parents.

“Brown is telling parents he doesn’t want them to be in charge of their own children,” Thomasson said in a statement Sunday.

The governor answered the pleas of many parents by requiring health plans to include coverage for treatments associated with autism.

The mandate will stay in place until implementation of the federal healthcare law signed by President Obama. If the federal government does not provide coverage for treatments outlined in the bill by July 2014, the state requirement will expire.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the author of the bill, hailed Brown’s approval as “a critical victory for thousands of California children and families. For many of them, having this therapy covered by their insurance is the difference between despair and hope.”

“Gov. Brown has chosen to side with California families and taxpayers rather than the health insurance lobby,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of the group Autism Speaks, a New York-based advocacy organization.

The California Assn. of Health Plans denounced Brown’s decision.

“At a time when families and businesses struggle to afford health coverage, SB 946 is going to drive up health care costs for families and businesses by nearly $850 million a year,” the group’s president, Pat Johnston, said in a statement Sunday.

Meanwhile, police in California will no longer be able to freely impound cars from sober but unlicensed drivers stopped at drunk-driving checkpoints.

Under the new law, written by Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), if a sober driver is caught at a DUI checkpoint without a valid license, law enforcement officers must release the car to a qualified driver representing the registered owner. If a legal driver is not readily available, says AB 353, the vehicle is to be released to one later at the impound yard.

Cedillo alleged that sobriety checkpoints have been misused by some cities to target illegal immigrants who do not have licenses. Because cities can hold cars taken from unlicensed drivers for 30 days, the accumulated impound fees can be more than a car is worth, and some drivers lose their cars as a result.

But Brown vetoed a bill that would have required law enforcement agencies to limit the hours of DUI checkpoints and to announce the locations 48 hours in advance.

“While I understand there are concerns that some sobriety checkpoints are being operated improperly, this bill is far too restrictive on local law enforcement,” Brown wrote in his veto message on AB 1389 by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa). The effect would be “allowing drunk drivers to avoid detection altogether,” the governor said.

He also rejected an ACLU-sponsored measure that would have required a warrant to search the contents of a portable electronic device, such as a cellphone, during an arrest.

“This measure would overturn a California Supreme Court decision that held that police officers can lawfully search the cell phones of people who they arrest,” Brown said in a statement on his decision on SB 914 by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

Brown dismissed a proposal to ban the practice of shackling pregnant inmates. He said the wording of AB 568 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) went too far, appearing to prohibit the use of handcuffs or any type of restraints on pregnant prisoners.

And he rejected a Leno bill that would have legalized production of industrial hemp in four California counties. While voicing support for the concept, Brown cited federal prohibitions on the cultivation of cannabis plants for any purpose.

In several of the vetoes, the governor asserted that proposals were unnecessary or might cause more problems than they would solve.

That was the case with a measure that would have required businesses to allow employees to take four days of unpaid time off when there is a death in the family. Brown worried it could lead to litigation by employees. He also questioned the need for the bill, AB 325 by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach).

“Granting bereavement leave when a close family member dies is the moral and decent thing to do,” Brown wrote, “and I believe the vast majority of employers voluntarily make such an accommodation for the loss of a loved one.”