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Sales tax measure to go on ballot

Governor signs bill allowing L.A. County voters to decide issue.

September 26, 2008|Patrick McGreevy and Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday gave the go-ahead for a sales tax measure on the November ballot in Los Angeles County for mass transit, while his appointees approved $730 million to reduce congestion on the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass.

The governor signed about 30 bills Thursday, including measures to solve a shortage of math and science teachers; weed out incompetent paramedics; toughen enforcement on child care centers; and provide treatment for thousands of uninsured patients diverted after the closure of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital.

One of the bills allows Los Angeles County to put a half-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax increase on the Nov. 4 ballot to raise $40 billion over 30 years for mass transit projects, including a proposed subway to the sea. It must be approved by two-thirds of voters.

Although the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority acted in July to seek an increase in the county's sales tax from 8.25 cents to 8.75 cents on the dollar, the power to tax would have expired in six years without the governor's signature on the bill extending the authority for 30 years.

"Measure R, which this bill enables, can transform L.A. forever," said Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), who wrote the bill, AB 2321. "It allows us to clear up our gridlock and clean the air."

Also on Thursday, the California Transportation Commission allocated $730 million in voter-approved bond money to build 10 miles of carpool lane on the northbound 405 between the 10 and 101freeways in Los Angeles.

"This funding will not only help relieve the traffic congestion that clogs our Los Angeles freeways, it will create jobs and help stimulate California's economy when we need it the most," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2009 and be completed in four years, said Caltrans spokeswoman Judy Gish.

Schwarzenegger also signed legislation to give Community and Mission Hospital of Huntington Park $500,000 in tobacco tax money to help cover the costs of treating uninsured patients. The hospital has experienced a surge in uninsured emergency room patients since the closure of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital last year.

The bill, AB 2707, was introduced by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles).

The governor took action Thursday to address the severe shortage of math, science and special education teachers in California. He signed SB 1660 by Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles).

It allows poor-performing campuses -- including more than 300 in the Los Angeles Unified School District -- to divert professional development grant funds to pay a stipend to new and existing teachers in those three fields.

"This legislation will allow school districts to compete for the best and brightest personnel to teach our children," said A.J. Duffy, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles.

Spurred by reports of incompetent or negligent paramedics, Schwarzenegger enacted a measure to create a statewide registry of emergency medical technicians.

The governor signed AB 2917 by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico (D-Newark), which aims to make it easier to track unqualified paramedics or those with a criminal background.

Last year the governor vetoed a similar Torrico bill, saying that it limited public disclosure and did not set clear standards for background checks.

Schwarzenegger also signed a bill to toughen oversight of licensed elderly and child care facilities in response to the 2004 drowning of 20-month-old Aryanna Sanchez in a partially covered spa at a licensed day-care center in Riverside.

Schwarzenegger, who had vowed not to sign bills until the Legislature gave him a budget, must act on more than 800 measures in the next several days. Earlier Thursday, at an appearance in Long Beach, he suggested docking lawmakers' pay when the state budget is delayed.

On Thursday, lawmakers each received payments of at least $19,700, before taxes, in back pay covering this fiscal year's first two months of salary withheld by a provision of state law that keeps legislators' pay in abeyance until a budget is approved.

"It's irresponsible when the budget is three months late," Schwarzenegger said. "What are the consequences? . . . I believe very strongly they should not get paid."

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patrick.mcgreevy@ latimes.com

nancy.vogel@latimes.com

Times staff writer Tami Abdollah contributed to this report.

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