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A Few Good Measures

September 10, 2002

Gov. Gray Davis: The Sept. 30 deadline to work through the mountain of legislation on your desk looms. There are many good bills you should sign and at least one bad one you should veto. Here are a few recommendations.

Sign:

* Mental health. AB 1421, a.k.a. "Laura's law," by Assemblywoman Helen Thomson (D-Davis) would allow, in narrowly defined cases, the involuntary treatment of people in need of help and unable to make rational decisions concerning care.

* Primary. SB 1975, Sen. Ross Johnson's (R-Irvine) bill, would move the state primary election to the first week in June. The state still would hold a separate March primary in presidential years. But six months into the general election campaign, you of all people must agree that it's ridiculous to nominate candidates in a March primary who won't face election until November.

* Beach access. SB 1962 would put muscle behind laws giving the public access to the ocean. Sen. Richard Polanco's (D-Los Angeles) bill would require the state to accept all the offers that beachfront landowners have made over the years to provide access paths through their properties to the sea. Many of these offers will soon expire, and without your signature on this bill, property owners can shut the gates to their estates forever.

* Medi-Cal. The Assembly Budget Committee's AB 3006 would fully restore the first across-the-board boost in Medi-Cal payments to doctors since 1984. Enacted last year but rescinded in your May budget, the increase in the state's version of Medicaid lifted California from 47th among the states to 42nd. Inadequate reimbursements are one reason hospitals are closing emergency departments and specialists refuse to be on call. In signing Thursday's budget, you agreed to restore half the increase and consider restoring the rest. Signing AB 3006 would finish the job.

* E-waste. SB 1523 by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford) envisions a pioneering program to recycle old computers and TV sets, financed by a $10 fee on new devices. These old sets are now a major component of the waste stream.

* Courthouse repair. SB 1732 would gradually transfer title to more than 450 courthouses from counties to the state and, by raising court filing fees and fines, create a fund for construction and repair. Since the state already pays for trial court operations, Sen. Martha Escutia's (D-Whittier) bill makes sense and would help upgrade many crumbling courthouses in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

* HIV/AIDS. AB 2197 by Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) would, for the first time, extend Medi-Cal eligibility to Californians who are infected with the virus that causes AIDS but who have not yet developed the full-blown disease and who don't have employer-based or other insurance. The law is written to preclude costing the state additional money. By giving patients access to drugs and care otherwise unavailable, the bill would extend their lives and on-the-job productivity.

Veto:

* Insurance. SB 689 by Sen. Don Perata (D-Alameda) would overturn a decision of the state insurance commissioner and allow Mercury Insurance Group to continue a form of discount that results in higher premiums for some customers. The bill appeared to pass only because Mercury has been such a generous contributor to legislators' campaigns.

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