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THE STATE

Capitol Visit a Call for Action

In his first meetings with state legislators, Schwarzenegger details plans for special sessions. Ex-Wilson aide named chief of staff.

October 23, 2003|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger swept through California's Capitol on Wednesday, pledging to immediately push the reforms promised during his campaign and reaching into the ranks of state lobbyists to select a key member of his staff.

In his first official visit to Sacramento since his election Oct. 7, Schwarzenegger held a series of friendly meetings with legislative leaders and announced that he has selected Patricia T. Clarey, a longtime aide to former Gov. Pete Wilson, to serve as his chief of staff.

Meanwhile, the governor-elect told lawmakers that he plans to call one or more special legislative sessions by the end of November to consider repealing an illegal immigrant drivers' license bill, revising a workers' compensation measure and restructuring the state's billion-dollar debt-financing plan -- all of which took legislators months of wrenching, often bitter debate to agree upon before recessing in September.

"Action, action, action, action -- that's what people have voted me into this office for," Schwarzenegger told reporters as he began a late-afternoon meeting with the top two party leaders from both houses of the Legislature. "They wanted to have a governor that is filled with action, that performs and that represents the people, and that's what I'm here to do."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 24, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Schwarzenegger photo -- A photo of Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger with Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Culver City), which ran in Thursday's Section A, was incorrectly credited to Associated Press. The photograph was taken by Times photographer Robert Durell.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 28, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Burton's district -- An article in Thursday's California section about Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's visit to Sacramento misidentified the district that state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton represents. He is a Democrat from San Francisco, not Los Angeles.

While Schwarzenegger could use the sessions to show voters that he is immediately moving on his campaign pledges, they could also become a double-edged sword for the new governor, who will likely have trouble resolving such complicated matters as the state's finances and workers' compensation in a short time frame.

Once the Legislature is in session, the Democratic leadership will be in full control of the agenda, and it is not likely to help the new governor push through his programs.

"It's not going to be for us to be putting together any bills," said Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-Los Angeles), who voiced skepticism that Schwarzenegger will be able to meet his goal for reforming workers' compensation. "I think he's talking about a 20% rate reduction, and I'm not sure how you get there."

Schwarzenegger's aides also reiterated his pledge to issue an executive order repealing a recent tripling of the state's vehicle license fee. They said he will be able to replace the $4 billion in revenue from those fees that cities and counties use to finance police and fire services, but did not specify how.

"They're essential, and at such a time as the car tax is repealed, there will be a plan announced on how we're going to make local government whole," said Rob Stutzman, communications director for the governor-elect.

The incoming governor's pledge to move quickly on all those fronts came as he made the rounds in the Capitol, dozens of reporters in tow, and met with legislative leaders, who are awaiting his inauguration with a mixture of anticipation and reserve.

For the most part, Schwarzenegger was welcomed with broad smiles and accommodating words. Democratic leaders said they were prepared to challenge the new governor, if necessary, but emphasized that they hope to work with him.

The governor-elect echoed that sentiment, saying his goal Wednesday was to begin forging a relationship with his political opposition.

"I respect them and I'm looking forward to the first day of being here as governor and working together with them," Schwarzenegger told reporters. "This was kind of the first step of creating good relationships and let them know that I am here to work together and we have to all work for the people of California."

Just weeks after the recall campaign was polarized by partisan jousting, the mood in the Capitol was almost jovial. When Schwarzenegger arrived for his meeting with Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Culver City), the speaker jokingly pulled out a measuring tape and threatened to get an official reading on the new governor's height. Schwarzenegger laughed and threw his arm over the speaker's shoulders as they went inside.

"We're going to give him the benefit of the doubt, and on things that we disagree with him on, we're going to fight tenaciously," Wesson said afterward.

Down the hall, the incoming governor and Senate President Pro Tem John L. Burton (D-San Francisco) bonded over their love of schnitzel.

"We talked, joked around," Burton said. "I think he will be -- on a personal level -- easy to work with. On a political level, we have to wait and see."

Even Schwarzenegger's vow to immediately repeal a new law that grants driver's licenses to illegal immigrants did not get a rise out of the Democratic leadership.

"I think it is much ado about nothing," said Burton, who added that he still needs to talk to the measure's author, Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), who is hoping to broker a compromise over the law.

For their part, Republican lawmakers were jubilant about the presence of the GOP governor-elect.

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