SACRAMENTO — Gov. Pete Wilson on Tuesday signed legislation, prompted by the indictment of a state coastal commissioner, that is designed to prohibit secret meetings between landowners and commission members.
The measure stems from last spring's federal grand jury indictment of Commissioner Mark L. Nathanson on eight felony counts, alleging that he used his office to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hollywood celebrities and others seeking coastal development permits.
Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Encino), who authored the bill, said he was sure that "the Nathanson scandal, which raises the question of whether coastal development permits were up for sale, was an important factor" in Wilson's favorable action on the bill.
Nathanson has pleaded not guilty.
The new law, effective Jan. 1, will require commissioners to make public any private or informal contact they have with developers or their representatives or face a $7,500 civil fine. Also, when developers seek building permits from the commission they will be required to publicly report the names of anyone acting on their behalf before the commission.
Also announced Tuesday was Wilson's signing of consumer protection legislation to put California off limits to rip-off promoters who use 900 telephone numbers in sweepstakes and prize games.
Carried by Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (D-Burlingame), the new law requires sponsors of 900-number games to register with the state attorney general, pay a $50 fee and submit copies of their advertising so it can be screened for deception.
A customer calling a 900 number--unlike a toll-free 800 number--must pay a fee, most of which goes to the party called. In the case of so-called "gamester" sweepstakes and prize games, Speier said a single call can cost an "outrageous" $8 with no assurance that the consumer will win advertised cash or prizes.
In another action, Wilson signed a bill by Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) to target $25 million to beef up literacy and job skills for about 1.6 million immigrants who became legal residents under the 1986 federal amnesty program.
Torres said these Californians represent an "enormous economic" resource but often must work at two or more low-paying jobs that provide no security or benefits. "Many lack the training to permit the needed job mobility and flexibility to weather an uncertain economy," he said.
The new law, effective Jan. 1, will draw from existing immigrant educational funds that finance the teaching of basic skills and English as a second language. The money will be redirected into job readiness programs.
Wilson has vetoed a comprehensive bilingual education measure known as the California Language Minority Education Act, by Sen. Henry J. Mello (D-Santa Cruz), which would have required all schools in California to offer some form of bilingual education when they enroll children who do not know English well enough to learn in that language. Bilingual education enables students to be taught academic subjects in their native language until they become proficient in English.
The bill was designed to replace the stopgap Department of Education regulations that have been in force since the state's first bilingual education law expired five years ago. Proponents said the measure would have helped ensure the academic success of California's 1.7 million students who come from homes where another language is spoken.
But in his veto message Saturday, Wilson sided with the bill's opponents, citing among his concerns the measure's potential cost and his view it would "unduly restrict school districts."