Capitol Journal: Advice for Gov. Jerry Brown as he decides which bills to sign

Jerry Brown
Gov. Jerry Brown stopped by the Senate Chambers to make a few remarks shortly before midnight on Aug. 31 in Sacramento.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown has nearly 1,000 bills stacked on his desk to sign or chuck. Some are important. Most are not. Many are frivolous.

They flew out of the Legislature like clouds of locusts in the final days before lawmakers adjourned their two-year session on Friday. Brown has until Sept. 30 to act on them. Last year, he signed 88% of the Legislature’s offerings, no doubt occasionally cringing.

The biggest bills now before the governor I’ve already written about: wildfire liability, fire prevention, net neutrality and 100% clean energy by 2045.

Here are some other intriguing measures, with unsolicited advice for the governor:


— Liquor last calls: Legislation by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would allow bars to stay open until 4 a.m. in nine cities: Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Long Beach, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Coachella. City councils would have to approve it.

The nightlife and tourist industries think later bar closings would boost business. And cities covet the extra tax revenue. Never mind that the longer people drink the more likely they are to get drunk and wind up in predawn auto accidents — perhaps the morgue. But, hey, government treasuries get fatter.

Veto it.

— School start times: A bill by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) would require public middle and high schools to wait until 8:30 a.m. to begin classes. The average student is too drowsy and the brain isn’t clicking before then, the senator says. Rural districts would be exempted.


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Opponents contend that school hours should be decided locally. They also say later starts would inconvenience parents who drop off their kids on the way to work. Tough. Adjust. Schools should be operated in the kids’ best interests.

Sign it.

— Women on corporate boards: Any publicly traded corporation headquartered in California would have to put women on their boards under a bill by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and Senate leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). By the end of 2021, there’d need to be at least three women on a board of six or more directors.

Jackson says one-fourth of California’s publicly traded companies still have all-male boards. Five years ago, she sponsored a resolution urging firms to select women board members. The measure passed but was ignored, she says, and adds: “We’re not going to ask anymore. We are tired of being nice.”

OK, corporations without women board members are losing out on talent and perspective. But there should be a limit on the extent government can dictate to a private company about how it organizes and operates. What’s next? Require a millennial board member? A senior?

Veto it.

— Abortion pills: Public universities would have to provide an abortion pill to women upon request at campus health clinics under a bill by Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino). The program would be privately funded by a foundation. No tax money involved.


Sign it.

— Gun buyer’s age: You’d have to be at least 21 to buy a rifle or a shotgun, unless you have a hunting license or were in law enforcement or the military under a Portantino bill. That’s already the required minimum age for handgun purchases.

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Portantino points to the February killing of 17 Florida high school students and employees allegedly by a 19-year-old using an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. But purchase of those types of guns with high-capacity magazines — assault weapons — are already illegal in California.

This bill accomplishes nothing and disrespects 18- to 21-year-olds who just want to buy a rifle or shotgun for target shooting, skeet shooting or, yes, protection.

Veto it.

— Plastic straws: If a diner wanted to use a plastic straw in a restaurant, he’d have to request one. It wouldn’t be handed out automatically under a bill by Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier). Plastic waste fouls the environment, and California has been trying to reduce it.


This bill doesn’t ban plastic straws. It just requires common sense.

Sign it.

— Noncitizen officeholders: A noncitizen — including an immigrant living here illegally — could be appointed to a public board or commission under a bill by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). Lara says many are experts in their fields and some undocumented immigrants already are licensed lawyers.

Five years ago, Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed noncitizen legal immigrants to serve on juries.

“Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship,” he wrote. Permitting noncitizens to be jurors, he said, “I don’t think [is] right.”

The same, I’d argue, applies to members of regulatory boards and commissions — especially if they’re residing here illegally.

Veto it.

— Smoking ban: Separate bills by Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) would ban smoking — including marijuana — in state parks and on beaches. No-smoking signs would need to be posted where it was outlawed on beaches. Another bill, by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), would ban smoking only in designated picnic areas at parks and beaches.

Levine argued that discarded butts can ignite wildfires. But on beaches?

Brown has vetoed more restrictive non-smoking bills in the past.

“If people can’t smoke even on a deserted beach, where can they?” the non-smoker wrote in a veto message last year. “There must be some limit to the coercive power of government.”

Agreed. Veto these bills, too.

This is the term-limited governor’s last chance to play God with California laws. It’s a tedious task he no doubt relishes.

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