POLITICAL LANDSCAPE:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed 33 bills this week from local lawmakers and vetoed 10 others in the aftermath of a historically late budget agreement that delayed the final passage of hundreds of bills.

Among the bills signed into law were 15 by outgoing state Sen. Jack Scott, nine from Republican Rep. Cameron Smyth, eight by Rep. Paul Krekorian and one from Rep. Anthony Portantino.

Schwarzenegger vetoed 10 bills — five from Scott, three by Portantino and two by Krekorian — among the 131 pieces of legislation the governor sent back recently, less than two weeks after signing a budget more than 80 days into the fiscal year.

Among Scott’s 15 bills the governor signed were measures to improve teacher preparation, protect students from sexual predators and maintain California’s pledge to provide a college education for all qualified students.

The signed bills from Scott, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, who plans to retire by the end of the year in favor of leading the state’s community college system, include 10 education-related bills, one public safety accord and four others related to business, adoption laws and real estate fraud.

Scott’s Senate Bill 890 establishes a road map for students and families, beginning in middle school, to prepare for college and continuing education, while SB 1112 helps public schools maintain certain endowment levels by allowing districts to add up to two students per class and still retain partial funding for class-size-reduction measures.

Scott’s SB 1164 gives investigative auditors of the Department of Justice the ability to serve search warrants on financial institutions, Internet service providers and telecommunications companies in order to help investigate elder financial abuse, MediCal fraud and financial crimes. SB 1726 updates the state adoption law in shortening the time period during which a birth parent may revoke consent to the adoption of his or her child by allowing a waiver to be signed.

But Schwarzenegger vetoed five of Scott’s bills — the most of any local legislator — including SB 146, an education bill that would have changed the way schools count each student, for purposes of funding, from the current formula based on average daily attendance to one based on average monthly attendance.

In a veto message, the governor wrote: “I am concerned that the accounting change in this bill could result in reduced incentives for schools to maximize student attendance.”

The governor also rebuffed Scott’s SB 325, which would have established a statewide system of check marks for schools to meet certain fundraising and educational goals. In his veto message, Schwarzenegger wrote that the bill “falls short in providing any framework for incentives or consequences that would modify behavior to meet any policy objectives.”

Schwarzenegger also vetoed Scott’s SB 1111 — which would have required the state board of education to minimize testing time — that was passed unanimously by the Senate in May; SB 1499, which would have required metallic balloons to be outfitted with new warning labels, which Schwarzenegger felt was not a high enough priority to sign given the long budget delay; and SB 413, relating to prisoner education programs.

Included in the vetoes were two bills by Krekorian, including Assembly Bill 2696 — legislation that would have strengthened provisions against motorists caught speeding by adding two points to a driver’s record if he or she were cited for driving more than 26 mph over posted limits.

In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said imposing another law to limit speeding would have been “unnecessary.”

“There is no question that exceeding the posted speed limit is a dangerous and risky driving behavior,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “Driving in excess of the speed limit is already a violation of the law — the California Vehicle Code includes over 38 sections addressing speed violations. Moreover, a two-point violation should be reserved for the more egregious violations such as a DUI, reckless driving, and hit and run.”

The governor also vetoed Krekorian’s AB 2669, which would have required more background searches for weapons. Schwarzenegger felt it would overburden state law enforcement agencies.

The governor did sign eight Krekorian-authored bills, including AB 1894 — which compels health insurance companies to provide coverage for routine HIV screenings — and AB 1461, which limits the liability of health insurance companies for any loss sustained by a policy holder while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance, unless the substance was administered by a doctor.

Three bills from Portantino were sent back, including AB 1366, which would have required certain changes to state housing laws, and AB 1863, a bill meant to highlight the role Italian-Americans have played in state and U.S. history via California textbooks.

Of 1366, Schwarzenegger felt that withholding housing funding from certain regions “could have the effect of reducing affordable housing options in communities where it is most needed.”

After vetoing 1863, the governor wrote, “I continue to believe that the state should establish rigorous academic standards and frameworks, but refrain from being overly prescriptive in specific school curriculum.”

Smyth’s nine bills passed after the budget was signed Sept. 23 escaped the governor’s chopping block. Those included AB 1278, which strengthens existing laws against human trafficking; AB 1892, which allows homeowners to install solar energy and solar water heating systems despite opposition from their homeowners association; and AB 534, which would make “surrogate stalking” — the act of publishing photos, physical descriptions, and/or locations of children with the intent that another person uses that information to commit a crime against a child — a misdemeanor.

Smyth’s bills were able to survive without veto because “they were all good bills, all bipartisan bills,” spokesman Ryan Flanigan said.

All signed bills will be enacted Jan. 1, and the Legislature is scheduled to reconvene Jan. 7.

Controller needs to borrow money

State Controller John Chiang announced Wednesday that his office will be forced to borrow $7 billion to meet California’s financial obligations through the current fiscal year, ending June 30.

The announcement comes two weeks after the Legislature passed a historically late budget and Schwarzenegger signed the accord that covered most of the state’s $15.2-billion deficit.

Chiang’s assessment is based on his latest computation of the state’s cash analysis and projected declines in revenues, coupled with “questionable cash solutions in the state’s record-setting late budget,” officials with his office said.

“The difficulty is also compounded by the short window of time between now and the final days of October, the period in which my office has projected the state will likely run out of cash,” Chiang said in a statement.

Senate passes rail safety bill in wake of crash

The U.S. Senate passed a rail safety bill 74-24 on Wednesday in the wake of the Sept. 12 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth that killed 25 people and was dubbed the worst in the regional rail carrier’s history.

The bill, which passed the House on Sept. 24, would mandate that tracks where passenger and freight trains share rail lines be equipped with “positive train control” systems featuring more advanced communications measures. It would also provide more than $12 billion in funding to Amtrak over the next four years.

But President Bush has indicated he might not sign the legislation based on its Amtrak funding provision, despite the number of votes each congressional house culled to override such a veto threat.

In June, Bush issued a Statement of Administration Policy after the House passed a rail safety bill that would have allocated $14 billion for Amtrak, saying the bill “does not include basic measures to Amtrak accountable to taxpayers for its spending decisions.”

— Jeremy Oberstein


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