Liu: 'A Democratic governor makes a difference'

State Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) celebrated a legislative victory at Pasadena nonprofit AbilityFirst late last month, toasting one of six Liu bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011.

Liu enjoyed more legislative success in 2011 than she did a year earlier, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger torpedoed a Liu measure offering renters notice about foreclosures on their dwellings.

“For me, a Democratic governor makes a difference,” Liu said.

Overall, Liu saw six bills signed, none vetoed and has 18 bills pending in the 2011-12 legislative session. Many lawmakers’ proposals for large-scale reforms in government policy or spending were tabled in 2011 while Brown and lawmakers battled over the state budget deficit.

“The bills that wound up needing more work all have to do with reform,” Liu said. “We’re going to come back and deal with those next year.”

The measure Liu and Ability First leaders marked at the Oct. 20 party altered a state law that effectively outlawed a common practice at the center — allowing developmentally disabled clients who are 18 and older to continue in training programs that also include high-school-age students.

For Liu, chair of the Human Services Committee, championing the bill was “a no-brainer.”

“The disabled community just needed that flexibility,” she said.

Other Liu measures to pass included the foreclosure notification bill and a law easing requirements for unemployed people to qualify for the Cal Fresh food assistance program.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) saw two measures signed by the governor and three vetoed, while 20 await further action.

Brown signed Portantino’s open-carry measure, barring the display of unloaded weapons in public, last month.

“Our goal this year was to get open-carry, which was a big issue considering it didn’t get out of the Assembly last year, and lay the foundation for some of the reform efforts next year,” Portantino said.

Portantino, who will be forced out of office by term limits at the end of the 2012 session, has authored a bill to force the Legislature to reveal budgets of individual staff members. The effort grew out of a battle between Portantino and Speaker Pro Tem John Peréz (D-Los Angeles) over whether Portantino would have to furlough his staff because he allegedly exceeded his budget allotment.

Ultimately, Portantino was not forced to reduce staff, but Portantino said he still wants to see the Legislature open its books.

Vetoed Portantino bills include a pilot project encouraging more community college students to seek federal financial aid and a measure pushing local law enforcement agencies to quickly process rape kits to close sexual assault investigations. In his veto message, Brown noted that local agencies do not support the proposal.

One pending Portantino bill is familiar: He has introduced for at least the seventh time a bill that would freeze salaries for some 3,300 state workers making more than $100,000 a year — including many financial executives in the state public employee retirement and pension systems — while the state operates at a deficit.

“I keep hoping the Appropriations Committee will embrace the opportunity to save the state money,” Portantino said. “It is the right thing to do.”

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