If there was ever any doubt that the governor’s veto power provides adult supervision for the Legislature, all you need to do is look at SB1480, the bat bill.
That’s bats, as in furry nighttime flying things.
Under Democratic state Sen. Ellen Corbett’s measure, you would need permission from the Department of Fish and Game to keep bats out of your house during much of the year.
Although Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto message dealt with other concerns of the bill, which also tightened the state’s wildlife trapping rules, he was the voice of common sense when it came to bats in the belfry – and attics and bedrooms.
“Homeowners should be allowed to exclude bats from their home at any time,” the governor wrote.
By the time Brown put down his pen Sunday night, the deadline for dealing with measures from the legislative session, he had signed 876 bills and vetoed 120, about 12 percent.
While the bills Brown signed, such as a ban on anti-gay therapy, safety standards for self-driving cars and same-day voter registration, get the publicity, the vetoes may provide a better look at the governor’s concerns.
Brown can’t easily be buttonholed. Much to the dismay of his union allies, he blocked a measure known as the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which would have required overtime pay, rest periods and meal breaks for home care workers.
“In the face of consequences both unknown and unintended, I find it more prudent to do the studies before considering an untested legal regime for those that work in our homes,” Brown wrote.
Despite Brown’s long history of support for farm workers, the governor also vetoed a pair of measures that would have set new regulations on heat protection for farm workers and made it a crime not to provide sufficient shade and drinking water.
“While I believe enforcement of our heat standards can be improved, I am not convinced that creating a new crime – and a crime that applied to only one group of employers – is the answer,” he said.
For someone who has spent most of his life in public office, Brown also demonstrates an unwillingness to believe that new laws are the answer to California’s problems.
Take, for example, his veto of SB1366, which would have made it a crime to fail to report the loss of a firearm within 48 hours.
Brown said he was not convinced the measure would help keep firearms out of the wrong hands.
“For the most part, responsible people report the loss and theft of a firearm and irresponsible people do not,” he wrote in his veto message. “I am skeptical that this bill would change those behaviors.”
Time after time, the former Jesuit seminarian drew on the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which means that matters should be handled by the lowest, smallest or least centralized authority. For Brown, that means letting local agencies deal with their own problems, rather than having the state butt in.
AB217, for example, would have banned all indoor smoking – and much outdoor smoking – at nursing homes.
While health and safety is important, Brown said, the residents also should be considered.
“Allowing an elderly resident, who can’t go home and who has smoked for a lifetime, to smoke in a designated indoor area during inclement weather – this sounds reasonable to me,” Brown said. “Let’s rely on the locals, in this case the facility and its residents and employees, to figure out which accommodations work or don’t work.”
Brown’s personality, aggravations and all, also leak out in his veto messages.
He killed a bill by Republican Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, saying the changes she wanted had already been made.
“So in keeping with the author’s oft-stated mantra that government should not be wasteful or do unnecessary things, I am returning (the bill) without my signature,” Brown wrote.
Then there was AB1963, which would have required the Legislative Analyst to prepare a new report on tax revenue volatility.
“The Legislature can have its own analyst prepare the report by simply asking,” Brown curtly responded. “A law isn’t needed.”
There’s been little love lost between Brown and Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, who has had few good words to say about the high-speed rail project, which Brown sees as his legacy achievement.
SB721, by Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, would have set three goals for state higher education and required the Legislative Analyst to set up and run a committee that would decide how to determine if those goals were being met.
Let the sarcasm fly.
“Questions about who should measure, what to measure and how to measure what is learned in college are way too important to be delegated to the Legislative Analyst,” Brown wrote as he vetoed the bill.
John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California politics.