YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Governor Vetoes Ban on Bargain Imported Wines

October 02, 1985|JERRY GILLAM and LEO C. WOLINSKY | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian on Tuesday vetoed as "unfair to consumers" heavily lobbied legislation that would have outlawed bargain sales of prestige European wines and champagne by granting monopoly control to a few authorized importers.

The veto was among more than 130 actions announced by the governor as he worked to clear his desk of bills left from the Legislature's 1985 session. In all, lawmakers sent Deukmejian about 1,300 bills since returning from their summer vacation last month and the governor joked Tuesday that he is tired of dealing with legislation.

"When I put my name on 1,000 bills, it's times like that I wish I had a much shorter name," Deukmejian told a senior citizens lobbying group.

$20-Million Measure

He signed bills to spend $20 million for the homeless mentally ill, restrict legal challenges to pesticide spraying and require notices warning that the sale of lottery tickets to people under 18 years of age is banned. He also signed bills that require neurology checkups for boxers and regulate stun guns.

Deukmejian vetoed bills that would have rewritten state law governing pre-need funeral arrangements, required school administrators to return to the classrooms as teachers and declared Aug. 6 Peace Day.

The wine bill rejected by Deukmejian was an attempt to stamp out a flourishing gray market that has been outmaneuvering authorized wine importers by dealing through legal but unconventional channels and undercutting authorized prices by as much as 50%.

The recent bargains have been made possible by the dollar's strength overseas and by a two-tiered price structure that French wineries have maintained for their top wines--a lower price for European consumers and a higher price for Americans. Gray marketeers buy the wines on the European retail market, pay for shipping, and are still able to undercut the prices of official importers.

Although few California wineries compete directly with the prestige wines and champagnes that are brought into the state via the gray market, several influential Napa Valley vintners argued that the practice hurts domestic wine makers.

In his veto message, Deukmejian rejected those arguments, contending that the bill, authored by Sen. Ralph C. Dills (D-Gardena), "would result in higher prices for California consumers without producing significant relief for California growers and vintners."

Governor Praised

Consumer groups, which fought the measure as "blatant special-interest legislation," immediately praised Deukmejian for resisting heavy pressure from several large authorized importers, including Seagrams & Co. and Schieffelin.

Here is a summary of other major bills the governor signed or vetoed:

Mental Health--Deukmejian signed a bill by Assemblyman Bruce Bronzan (D-Fresno) that directs the spending of $20 million on food, shelter, clothing and income for the state's homeless mentally ill. Their number, estimated by state mental health officials as half of California's 75,000 homeless--are said to be increasing. The bill allocates $7.4 million to Los Angeles County, $1.3 million to San Diego County and $992,000 to Orange County.

Pesticides--Concern over a recent court challenge that slowed state eradication of the apple maggot prompted the Department of Agriculture to sponsor hastily written legislation that will make court challenges to state pesticide spraying more difficult. Assemblyman Norman Waters (D-Plymouth), under fire from opponents, had agreed to weaken the measure but that compromise collapsed on the last night of the session and the stronger bill was sent to the governor, who signed it.

Lottery--The lottery initiative passed by voters last November barred minors from playing the state lottery. A measure carried by Assemblyman Tom Bane (D-Tarzana) and signed by Deukmejian requires a notice on lottery tickets and vending machines declaring that state law prohibits the sale of tickets or payment of prizes to any person under 18 years of age.

Boxing--Assemblyman Art Agnos (D-San Francisco) introduced the bill to require all professional boxers to be examined by a doctor specializing in neurology because of concern that some fighters were taking too much punishment and returning to the ring too soon without proper medical checkups. Boxing promoters will pay the cost of the examinations under the measure signed by the governor.

Stun Guns--These recently developed weapons, utilizing a charge of electricity to immobilize an attacker, have been touted as non-lethal and more reliable than tear gas, and are largely unregulated. Signed by Deukmejian, this bill by Assemblyman Steve Clute (D-Riverside) sets up guidelines for purchase, use and possession of stun guns. The guidelines require that purchasers be given a booklet informing them about the weapon's use and that 16- and 17-year-olds have written parental consent to purchase the devices. Sales are prohibited to minors under 16.

Los Angeles Times Articles