YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Campaign Finance Reform Bill Is Vetoed : Legislation: Governor says the money the measure would require is needed for schools, health and public safety.


SACRAMENTO — A campaign finance reform bill limiting contributions and spending by candidates for the Legislature and providing for partial public financing was vetoed Friday by Gov. Pete Wilson, who said the money was urgently needed for other state programs such as schools, health and public safety.

The veto was announced as a midnight deadline approached for the governor to sign or veto the last of 1,200 bills passed by the Legislature before it adjourned for the year.

Wilson also vetoed a bill permitting doctors to prescribe marijuana for legitimate medical purposes and one prohibiting merchants from charging women more money than men for the same goods and services.

He also rejected a measure allowing cities and counties to set up clean needle and syringe exchange programs for drug addicts to help prevent the spread of AIDS, and vetoed a bill abolishing the State Franchise Tax Board while transferring its tax-collecting duties to the State Board of Equalization.

And for the second year in a row, the governor vetoed a bill giving libraries a new and, supporters say, desperately needed funding mechanism.

Of his rejection of the bill to reform legislative campaign finance, Wilson said: "This scheme could cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every election cycle. At a time when government is compelled to cut essential services, it is indefensible to spend taxpayer money to finance political campaigns."

If it had been signed, the campaign reform proposal would have gone on the statewide ballot in 1996 for voter approval.

While Wilson, who is expected to raise $25 million for his current reelection campaign, has supported the concept of campaign finance reform, he has opposed plans that include public financing.

The vetoed legislation, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), was the latest in a long line of failed attempts to make changes in how money is raised and spent in campaigns for the state Senate and Assembly.

Lockyer lashed out at Wilson, saying the governor "has destroyed our best opportunity to stop special interests and the big money influence in legislative campaigns. It's too bad he refuses to let the voters vote on campaign reform." Lockyer said campaign reform is needed to restore public confidence in state government.

His bill would have limited contributions in legislative races to $2,000 from individuals and corporations and $5,000 from political action committees. The limits would have applied separately to primary and general election campaigns.

Spending also would have been capped at about $800,000 in state Senate races and $560,000 in Assembly races, adjusted each year according to the number of voters in the state.

Spending limits would have applied only to candidates who accepted the partial public financing the bill would have created. The bill included a system to match private contributions by up to a 5-1 ratio, depending on the size of the donation. The taxpayer funds would have come from a voluntary state income tax checkoff.

Although most legislators say they want change, stalemates on the issue have been common as each political party fears that the other party will gain an advantage. Campaign reform bills that have passed the Legislature often have been vetoed, and the courts have struck down large portions of voter-approved campaign finance reform initiatives.

The bill allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana was sponsored by Sen. Milton Marks (D-San Francisco), who said marijuana was necessary to help patients suffering from debilitating diseases such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

But Wilson said the federal Food and Drug Administration has concluded that marijuana has no recognized medical use.

As for the bill prohibiting merchants from charging women more than men for the same goods or services, which was authored by Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (D-Burlingame), the governor said state law already prohibits gender-based price discrimination.

In vetoing the bill by Assemblyman Vivien Bronshvag (D-Kentfield) that would have permitted cities and counties to establish clean needle and syringe exchange programs for drug addicts, Wilson said he feared that such programs would result in an increased number of addicts.

Wilson said he rejected the measure abolishing the tax board as proposed by Assemblyman Johan Klehs (D-San Leandro) because he preferred his own idea of establishing a Department of Revenue, which failed to clear the Legislature.

The library funding bill, authored by state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys), would have allowed local officials to levy a benefit assessment on property owners if a majority voted in favor in a local election. Wilson called the proposal a tax masquerading as a benefit assessment, and said it should be subject to the same two-thirds vote requirement as all new taxes.

Los Angeles Times Articles