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Defining Schwarzenegger

September 05, 2004

Academics and political sleuths will sift through Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's bill signings and vetoes now through the end of September in an attempt to more sharply define the governor's political philosophy. They will seek tea leaves in the veto messages and look for patterns in bill approvals.

Some of this is easy. Schwarzenegger has made no secret of intending to veto any taxes, fees or new regulations. One exception will be the environment and clean air. For instance, he approved new fees to pay for inspection of dairy farms, which can be substantial polluters.

Expect as well some lectures on pragmatism from the governor, who accused lawmakers of passing too much trivial legislation. One example is his veto of AB 2085 by Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez (D-San Fernando). The measure sought to expand railroad crossing violations, including, for instance, crossing without enough room on the other side. The governor, in a brisk veto message, said, "If drivers do not understand that dangerous driving at [a] rail crossing is in itself dangerous, it is doubtful that expanding the list of related violations will have the ... deterrence the author seeks."

Schwarzenegger also killed AB 1466, which would have established "Don't Trash California" and its Spanish-language counterpart as official slogans of the state's anti-litter campaign. The governor simply ordered that the slogans be adopted, without adding to legislative litter.

Many of the hundreds of bills hastily passed by the Legislature before adjourning Aug. 28 are far more profound and have not yet been acted on by the governor. These include AB 2895 by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Sen. Gil Cedillo (both D-Los Angeles) to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses after meeting strict requirements and screenings. The governor opposed the bill because he wanted the license to indicate that the holder was in the country illegally. Schwarzenegger should reconsider and sign the bill, if only for its positive effect on driver safety.

He also should approve a bill replacing $7 million the governor vetoed from the child welfare budget. The measure, prescribing equal spending reductions elsewhere in the budget, had strong bipartisan support.

Finally, this could be a landmark year for ferrets. After 13 years of trying, ferret lovers got a bill passed to make California the 49th state in the nation to legalize ferrets as pets. Partisans of the weasel-like animal were especially hopeful because Schwarzenegger had a pet ferret in "Kindergarten Cop."

This editorial page, for once, has no strong opinion.

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