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Potential new laws in limbo

September 06, 2008|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — More than California's budget is up in the air.

So is a year's work by 120 lawmakers who want the governor to sign off on requiring carbon monoxide detectors in homes, impounding cars belonging to illegal dumpers and giving funeral directors permission to remove pacemakers, among nearly 1,000 other proposals.

Typically, the Legislature, which adjourned Sunday, would be sending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger bills to act on during the next couple of weeks. But because he has vowed to veto any measures that reach his desk before a budget gets there, legislators have to decide: Should they hold back the bills, or release them now and test his threat?

The game of legislative chicken is not without risk. The governor is also threatening to veto measures that reach him too close to the Sept. 30 deadline by which he must act.

In the Senate, with 427 bills at stake, President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) isn't saying what he'll do. "We'll hold on to them for now," said spokeswoman Alicia Trost, "but he hasn't made a long-term decision."

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) is more definitive -- she's keeping 531 bills close. "I would rather hold on to them, because he could veto them the second he receives them," Bass said.

Schwarzenegger's Aug. 6 veto vow lasted 20 days. Then he signed legislation to change the proposed routes of a high-speed rail project that would be funded by a bond measure on the November ballot.

At the time, Schwarzenegger urged lawmakers to hurry up and send him other measures for the November ballot, to address the state's water supply, borrow against future lottery profits and control how much the state spends. He is still waiting for those bills, which have been sticking points in the budget wrangle.

Lawmakers could be tempted to "jam" the governor -- send him hundreds of bills just before the Sept. 30 deadline and hope that he doesn't have time to act on them all. Any bill sent to him that he does not sign or veto takes effect without his signature.

In 1994, nine bills that Gov. Pete Wilson wanted to veto became law after they were forgotten on a copy machine.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor is prepared to unleash a flurry of vetoes if legislation is dumped on him at the 11th hour. "In the absence of a budget," McLear said, "the governor is prepared to veto every bill the Legislature sends to him except the four he specifically asked for."

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nancy.vogel@latimes.com

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