| Robert made an oblique reference to it, but the Governor showed his true character with his series of vetoes this week. Yes, he did allow some valuable bills to pass into law, particularly SB 375, the land use bill. You will now be able to register to vote online thanks to the signing of SB 381, and your menus at restaurants will have calorie contact and nutritional information. He also signed two green chemistry bills that will crack down on hazardous industrial chemicals, and in the biggest surprise, he signed AB 583, the clean money bill which would establish a pilot program making the Secretary of State races in 2014 and 2018 publicly financed races. (It was a bit easier for Arnold to sign this one, because it also must be put before voters on the June 2010 ballot.)
So those are some of the success stories. But there are hundreds of failures, some of them absolutely inexplicable. We knew that Arnold would veto SB840, the single-payer bill, but he also vetoed health care provisions that were in his own legislation from last year's health care reform overhaul, including one that would end rescission (dropping patients after they put in a claim) and requiring that 85% of insurance premiums be spent on health care. He vetoed the California DREAM Act for the second year in a row, after it was altered to conform to the standards he set in last year's veto message. He vetoed a bill which would have done away with the archaic and authoritarian practice of requiring loyalty oaths for state employees, because it's "our responsibility to ensure that public resources are not used for purposes of overthrowing the U.S. or state government, or for communist activities." He vetoed sensible card check legislation for farm workers that would have allowed employees to unionize while resisting employer intimidation. He caved to Big Business - and Sarah Palin - and vetoed the groundbreaking port cleanup bill that essentially signs a death warrant for families living in and around that toxic stew.
All in all, he killed 35% of the bills sent to him this session, and 45% of those sent in the rush of the final week. Most of the vetoes I described above reflect the right-wing ideology and fealty to the Chamber of Commerce that I've come to expect from the Governor. But what's unusual is his contempt for the legislative process itself. Here's Frank Russo:
On many of the bills the Governor did not give a clue as to why he did not sign them, and instead employed a cryptic boilerplate veto message: "The historic delay in passing the 2008-2009 State Budget has forced me to prioritize the bills sent to my desk at the end of the year's legislative session. Given the delay, I am only signing bills that are the highest priority for California. This bill does not meet that standard and I cannot sign it at this time." How will this look in the future-next year or when history is written? In the hundreds of bills that met this fate there are many that were trivial or could be seen in that light. Some were amended down to the point of a pilot project or study or some other pale shadow of their former selves and the original intention of the legislator that introduced them. Even in this form, to the people involved, some of these were very important.
Some of these bills were passed out of both chambers with UNANIMOUS support. And he rejected maybe 500 bills with that dismissive message.
It's not like these bills are foisted upon the Governor after being hidden away in secret. There is public information on all of them, and I'm assuming he has a staff to read the bill text. The excuse is not only lame, it's a final middle finger at the legislature, a disregard for the work that they do. As Dan Walters noted:
The budget imbroglio, the governor's threat to veto bills unless it was resolved, the Legislature's delay in sending him last-minute bills, the hundreds of vetoes, and his drive to change how legislative districts are redrawn every decade worsen his already acidic relationship with the Legislature. The relationship is now so bad that Schwarzenegger was unable to move a single vote from his fellow Republicans on the budget.
There's really only one thing to do. Veto overrides are incredibly rare in California, with the last one occurring I think 30 years ago. But it is incumbent upon California lawmakers to stand up for themselves and immediately move into a session where all unanimous bills are voted on in an effort to override the Governor. This is as much about checks and balances as anything else. Schwarzenegger showed his contempt for the process by hijacking the budget late in the game and threatening to veto. The "detente" against veto overrides should be dead and buried by now. I'm sure Democrats would welcome the maneuver, and Yacht Party Republicans aren't too pleased with the Governor in their own right.
This is about asserting the ability to carry out a core job function. If unanimous bills can be vetoed with no consequences the legislature just diminished greatly in stature. Stand up for yourselves. Stand up to this bully of a governor. Override.