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Governor Vetoes 10 Measures

He says no to letting dentists perform cosmetic surgery but has yet to weigh in on driver's license and Canadian-drug bills.

August 31, 2004|Jordan Rau | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — After lawmakers last week approved more than a dozen measures he opposed, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned the favor Monday by vetoing 10 of their bills, including a highly contested proposal that would have allowed some dentists to perform cosmetic surgery.

Since January, Schwarzenegger had signed 348 bills and vetoed 20. Although none of the measures he nixed Monday included the most controversial from the 2004 session that ended Saturday -- allowing prescription drug imports from Canada or allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, for example -- the administration sent a clear signal it would be using the veto pen liberally in coming weeks.

The governor Monday also signed 37 bills, including ones designed to better protect guide dogs, control how schools teach about sexually transmitted diseases and resolve through mediation insurance disputes over damage from Southern California fires.

The veto of SB1336, which would have allowed dentists trained in surgery to perform face-lifts and other elective cosmetic procedures, was notable for several reasons. Its sponsor was John Burton (D-San Francisco), the retiring Senate leader, with whom the governor had forged a good working relationship. And the bill had pitted two of Sacramento's most influential groups -- dentists and medical doctors -- against each other in a battle over some of the most lucrative operations.

In his veto message, Schwarzenegger agreed with plastic surgeons who had strenuously argued that oral surgeons were not prepared to do these types of operations, even though some worked in hospital emergency rooms repairing car accident victims and other patients with serious facial damage.

"I believe this practice needs to be more carefully reviewed and evaluated to fully ensure the safety of California's consumers," Schwarzenegger wrote. "Therefore, I am directing the Department of Consumer Affairs to conduct an occupational analysis of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon profession."

Dr. Harvey Zarem, a Santa Monica physician who is president of the California Society of Plastic Surgeons, praised Schwarzenegger for "having the courage to stand up for the people of California despite the special-interest pressure."

"There's no doubt in my mind that when somebody looks at this, they'll see that the dentists have been misinforming the public" by suggesting that they are as capable as plastic surgeons, he said.

Burton offered a different explanation: "It was probably all the Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeons who got ahold of their Beverly Hills clients, who got ahold of the governor. I don't know, but that's probably what happened."

Among the bills Schwarzenegger signed into law are ones that:

* Require the California Department of Insurance to establish a mediation program for disputed claims occurring after Sept. 30, 2003, related to fires in Southern California (SB64).

* Prohibit homeowner associations from requiring a member to install or repair a roof in a way that violates health and safety laws for high fire hazard areas (AB224).

* Require a school district to notify the parent or guardian of a pupil if comprehensive sexual health or HIV/AIDS prevention instruction will be taught by outside consultants, or if that instruction is to be provided through an assembly with guest speakers (AB1925).

* Increase penalties and fines against anyone convicted of interfering with a guide, signal or service dog. The punishments will also apply to anyone who lets another dog hurt or kill one of those special dogs (AB1801).

Bills Schwarzenegger vetoed would have:

* Established "Don't Trash California" and "California es tu casa. No hagas de ella un basurero" as the unified litter prevention and recycling slogan for California (AB1446). Schwarzenegger said slogans do not belong in state statutes.

* Required companies that rent snowmobiles to give drivers basic safety training and survival equipment such as helmets, flashlights and shovels (AB1818). Schwarzenegger said the training provisions were not clear.

* Allowed some city attorneys investigating state law misdemeanors to record or overhear communications (AB1884). Schwarzenegger said prosecutors needing to eavesdrop could do so by cooperating with agencies that already have that authority. The governor said current law "ensures that if a prosecutor decides there is a need to broach [breach] a person's privacy ... there is a process in place which balances the need of the investigation against a person's right to privacy." Although the proposal would have eliminated one step in putting electronic eavesdropping in place, he said, "it is not a process that should be streamlined."

* Allowed teachers to solicit pupil evaluations and prohibited school administrators from using the information to discipline teachers or students (AB 2370). The governor said the limitations could restrict existing teacher accountability rules.

Vince Sollito, a Schwarzenegger spokesman, said the timing of the large number of vetoes was coincidental. "There was a large number of bills passed in the waning hours of the session, and it will be a busy September," he said.

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