Davis handles final bill details

By Louise Chu The Associated Press
Wednesday October 02, 2002

SACRAMENTO — The fallout from Gov. Gray Davis’ decision to sign or veto hundreds of bills in the last week continued to settle Tuesday, as some groups celebrated and others prepared for lawsuits or new legislation. 

Among those praising the governor’s actions were California farmworkers, who cheered as Davis staffers announced his decision Monday to sign a bill that will offer mediation in labor disputes between agricultural employers and unions. 

Meanwhile, farm groups are planning legal action against the new law, which they called unconstitutional and legally questionable. 

“I think there’s a good probability that we will take this fight to the courts, but there’s a lot of options in there that we need to look at and study,” said Mike Webb, government affairs counsel for the Western Growers Association, which opposed the bill. 

Fierce lobbying on both sides led up to Davis’ decision, which proved be one of the more difficult of his political career. The governor has often prided himself on drawing the Central Valley vote, which is largely Republican. 

“I’m sure it just killed him — absolutely killed him — to sign that bill,” said Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “But he had to choose between the core Democratic constituents and the swing Republican agribusiness vote.” 

Immigrant groups also expressed outrage at Davis’ veto of a bill, by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, that would have granted driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Bill supporters pushed the controversial measure, saying it would have made California’s highways safer to have them to take the driver’s test and purchase auto insurance. 

But Davis sided with the bill’s opponents, who worried about the increased security risks from licensing non-citizens after last year’s terrorist attacks. 

Cedillo said he would reintroduce another version of the bill next year and would reevaluate it to better address the security concerns. He will also seek the help of the AFL-CIO, the powerful group of labor unions he hopes will help drum up popular support and ultimately the governor’s. 

Despite the prominence of corporate accountability as a political issue after the Enron and WorldCom bankruptcies, Davis vetoed a bill that many said would have been the toughest in the nation. 

The bill, by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Commerce, would have required corporate executives to report financial fraud in their company or face up to $100,000 in fines. 

“There is too much public frustration with the state of corporate America to let this go, and Gov. Davis can be assured that he will see strong corporate reform legislation again,” said Doug Heller, spokesman for The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. 

Conservative groups, including the Campaign for California Families celebrated over “a tremendous victory for children and families,” as Davis also vetoed a bill, by Assemblywoman Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, that would have encouraged counties to offer sensitivity training to foster parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender youth. 

But Geoff Kors, executive director of the California Alliance for Pride and Equality, which sponsored the bill, said it is “very likely” the bill will show up again next year. 

“Being a foster youth is difficult enough; being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender adds a whole new dimension,” Kors said. “This was a simple bill to put that protection into law.” 

CAPE suffered another legislative defeat Monday, when Davis vetoed a bill, by Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, that would have authorized pharmacies to sell hypodermic needles to adults without a doctor’s prescription.