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Davis vetoes bills in frenzied finish: Beer, gay rights measures axed

By Dan Smith
Bee Deputy Capitol Bureau Chief (Published Oct. 1, 2000)

Picking through the last few dozen bills lawmakers sent him a month ago, Gov. Gray Davis on Saturday vetoed two measures making undocumented immigrants eligible for state driver's licenses and for discounted tuition at state universities.

Davis also vetoed a last-minute bill large brewing companies sought to help expand their market share and rejected another measure opponents said would have established a state-sanctioned body to lobby for gay rights.

Facing a midnight deadline to act on legislation sent to him during the final weeks of the legislative session, Davis processed more than 500 bills this week, including nearly 100 on Saturday, according to the Governor's Office. In the midst of the work, he found time on Wednesday to attend a Sacramento party that raised $200,000 for his campaign account.

For the second time in two years, Davis vetoed a bill that would have allowed those applying for legal immigration status to seek a California driver's license. Current law requires license applicants to prove that they are legal residents by supplying a Social Security number.

Supporters of AB 1463 by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, contend it would improve public safety by licensing drivers who are apt to drive anyway.

But Davis said the proposed application process "is an invitation for fraud," and pointed out that Arizona, Florida, Texas and New Mexico all require Social Security numbers for driver's license applicants. "California should not impose a weaker standard than those imposed by other southern states," Davis wrote in his veto message.

The Democratic governor also rejected AB 1197, a bill by Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, D-Los Angeles, that would have allowed immigrants applying for legal status to attend state-supported universities and community colleges without paying nonresident tuition and fees.

Davis said federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving such a benefit unless the state allows all nonresidents to pay in-state tuition. That would cost the state more than $63 million annually in lost tuition at the University of California and California State University.

"I believe the state's priorities and funding must be focused on higher education attainment for California legal residents, both present and future," Davis said in his veto message.

The beer marketing bill, AB 2551 by Assemblywoman Helen Thomson, D-Davis, was sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, and would have more than quintupled a 15-year-old limit on the value of gifts beer manufacturers can give retailers to help promote their products.

Small breweries, particularly the emerging microbrewery industry in California, said the freebie increase would stunt their growth because they could not afford to compete. Large brewers said an increase is long overdue, and noted that state law allows liquor manufacturers to give retailers even higher-valued freebies.

Although beer manufacturers had been negotiating the issue behind the scenes for months, the bill only appeared in the Legislature's final days and had only one hearing before it was quietly placed on Davis' desk.

"I have repeatedly expressed my disinclination to sign bills, barring an emergency, that deny the public an opportunity to participate," Davis wrote in his veto message.

Davis continued to reject bills pushed by gay rights activists, even though their ultimate agenda was scaled back after the governor said he would not sign major legislation this year. Late Friday night he rejected another measure they had sought -- a bill to create a 13-member Commission on Human Rights "to foster harmonious and equitable intergroup relations among all residents of California, and to promote an informed and inclusive multicultural society."

Anti-gay activists had flagged the bill, AB 2000 by Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa, D-Los Angeles, as one that, according to anti-gay rights leader Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Families, would establish "a state homosexual lobby to push the homosexual marriage agenda in each community."

In his veto message, Davis said the commission would duplicate the duties already undertaken by the state Fair Employment and Housing Commission.

In other action Saturday, Davis signed SB 1857 by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, to create a dozen new justices for state courts of appeal and 20 new superior court judgeships.

Davis dealt a blow to some retired state workers in vetoing Burton's SB 1638, which would have increased the minimum annual pension for employees who retired before Jan. 1, 2000 and had at least 10 years of service with the state.

Davis said the bill was unfair because the minimum increase given to retired teachers last year required 20 years of service.

The veto angered the retired division of the California State Employees Association. Almost half of the 30,000 retired state employees represented by the division have monthly pensions of under $700.

He also approved a bill, AB 1338 by Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes, D-Fresno, that will force farm labor contractors to post wage surety bonds of at least $25,000 based on their annual payroll and create a Farmworker Remedial Account to help farm workers who haven't been paid.

And Davis signed AB 2900 and AB 1015, both by Assemblyman Martin Gallegos, D-El Monte, which would qualify California for federal funds under the Healthy Families program and formally extend coverage to parents. The state, however, still must come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to join the federal program.