SAN FRANCISCO — The state Supreme Court today set aside a lower-court ruling that Gov. George Deukmejian had acted illegally in abolishing the Cal/OSHA job safety program, and said it will hear Deukmejian's appeal.
The action by six of the seven justices has the practical effect of leaving the state safety program dormant for the rest of the 1987-88 fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The federal government took over workplace safety inspections for private employees in California last July 1 after concluding that the state program, which Deukmejian was in the process of dismantling, could no longer protect workers adequately.
Cal/OSHA has broader enforcement authority than the federal program. But Deukmejian vetoed the $7-million state program from the budget, saying it was an unnecessary duplication of the federal program.
In a suit by labor groups, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled last October that the Republican governor had exceeded his authority. Deukmejian has not acted to re-establish Cal/OSHA, however, while he appealed to the Supreme Court.
The appellate court said that although the governor had the power to eliminate money from the budget, only the Legislature could decide how the remaining money was to be spent. Deukmejian, the court said, had no power to decree that the remaining money in the Department of Industrial Relations' $140-million budget could not be used for the job safety program.
In granting a hearing, the Supreme Court nullified the lower-court ruling and left the legality of the governor's action unresolved. No hearing has yet been scheduled, but it is highly unlikely that the case can be heard and decided before July 1, when the next state budget is due to take effect.
The order granting the hearing was signed by Deukmejian's five appointees to the court--Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas and Justices Marcus M. Kaufman, David N. Eagleson, Edward A. Panelli and John A. Arguelles--and by Justice Allen E. Broussard, an appointee of former Gov. Jerry Brown. Justice Stanley Mosk, an appointee of former Gov. Pat Brown, did not sign the order.