Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more.
Hosted by Larry Mantle
Airs Weekdays 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Bill signings and Jerry Brown's 'canoe theory of politics'

California Gov. Jerry Brown.
California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Listen to story

Download this story 11.0MB

Gov. Jerry Brown had until Sunday to sign or veto hundreds of bills that the Senate and Assembly sent to his desk during the legislative session. In the aftermath of his decision making, Brown signed 760 bills and vetoed 128.

John Myers of the California Report told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that some may think the percentage of vetoed bills is high for the Democratic governor, but he said Brown downed certain bills for a reason.

“He thinks the legislature is spending too much time on issues that are not mission-critical, things that local governments should do, things that should wait until the state’s finances and its fiscal house gets put in order. You saw the governor saying ‘Hey look, we don’t have time for that right now,’” Myers said.

Brown vetoed other bills because he said their issues would tangle with federal law, such as a bill that would have allowed California farmers to sell industrial hemp.

Of those that were signed, many bills tackled controversial issues. Brown approved AB 144 and 809, two bills that limit the rights of gun owners, and SB 946 that would force insurance companies to cover autism treatments for children. Another signed bill, one Myers calls “the most notable middle-of-the-night bill,” would make it mandatory for ballot initiatives to be moved to November ballots in order to ensure higher voter participation.

Brown also signed the California Dream Act (SB 202), which allows undocumented college students access to financial aid. Myers said the governor’s decision came as no surprise.

“When he ran against [Meg] Whitman, he made it very clear […] that he supported these kinds of changes for the students,” Myers said. “Whether it remains as it is, is a good question."

One assembly member is looking to issue a referendum on SB 202, which if successful, would push the issue to the November ballots.

Brown’s decisions sometimes seem contradictory — he signed a bill that would allow girls as young as 12 to seek treatment for HPV without their parents consent, yet passed another that outlaws people under 18 from using tanning beds. Myers said that the governor has followed his “canoe theory of politics” closely.

“He paddles a little to the left, a little to the right, and he thinks that gets you down the middle of the political stream,” Myers said.

Myers said that Brown may be anticipating the political ramifications of some of his decisions. He vetoed a measure that would have required an economic impact report if a big box store like Walmart wanted to open in a particular community.

“The governor has a budget to resolve next year, he wants to revisit the issue of revenues and he has talked about putting on the ballot in November 2012, some kind of tax measure. What he does not need […] is the business community to oppose that tax measure,” Myers said.

Myers cited an anecdote from the L.A. Times, which described the governor calling those he trusted, including police chiefs and his personal doctor, to discuss tougher issues or answer his questions.

“It does show, I think, that the governor, in trying to weigh these, was not afraid to come down and make controversial decisions if he thought it was the right thing to do,” Myers said.


Did Brown make the correct decisions? In a message to the California State Senate about a bill that allows dead mountain lions to be stuffed and displayed, the governor wrote curtly:

"This presumably important bill earned overwhelming support by both Republicans and Democrats. If only that same energetic bipartisan spirit could be applied to creating clean energy jobs and ending tax laws that send jobs out of state."

Is he being too harsh?


John Myers, Sacramento bureau chief for KQED's “California Report”