In one of the last actions taken before the deadline to sign or veto bills, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 330 by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco).
Sponsored by California Newspaper Publishers Association, SB 330 would have required quasi-public organizations operating on community college, California State University or University of California campuses to comply with the California Public Record Act.
In his veto message, the governor partially justified his decision stating, "While I am a firm believer in providing openness and transparency when it involves public entities and public funding, this bill inappropriately places private auxiliary organizations that receive private funds, under the provisions of the California Public Records Act."
Despite the Governor's claim that these entities handle only private funds, in late August it was reported that California State University officials, who opposed SB 330, admitted that they have mixed private and public dollars to the extent that they can't tell the difference and don't know how much money is involved.
UC and CSU lobbied heavily for Schwarzenegger to veto SB 330 and successfully convinced the governor that SB 330 would have a chilling effect on donations. The governor was persuaded by this argument even though he was provided with evidence that in Iowa, where a court in 2005 determined that college auxiliaries were subject to disclosure laws, the foundation at Iowa State University experienced a steady increase in donations in the three year period following the decision.
State Senator Yee responded to the governor's decision saying, "It is appalling, especially after the recent outrage regarding the city of Bell, that the governor would ensure that scandals continue to plague our public universities."
"His veto allows these public institutions to continue to hide billions of dollars without any accountability," Yee added. "He ignored the facts. These auxiliaries are fully staffed by public employees, they often administer public funds, the donors were provided anonymity and that secrecy breeds corruption, not more donations."
The governor vetoed a similar bill by Yee last year, also on grounds that anonymous donors might reduce donations if they thought their names would be made public.
In other actions, Schwarzenegger also vetoed an anti-pension spiking bill, cancelling out reform legislation introduced in response to newspaper reports of rampant public employee pension spiking.
The CNPA had briefly opposed a provision of AB 1987 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) that would have made confidential the "books, papers, any data, or records, including but not limited to personnel and payroll records . . ." gathered by a retirement board from the county or district as part of an audit. CNPA's opposition caused that provision to be removed from the bill before it was approved by the Assembly.
The provision would have had the impact of legislatively overturning several cases brought by newspapers and others to obtain detailed individually identifiable pension information under the California Public Records Act.
The CNPA reported that the Contra Costa Times and the Modesto Bee won their cases "and provided their readers and the legislature with a stunning case for reform, while the Sacramento Bee and First Amendment Coalition's trial court victory is on appeal and the Riverside Press-Enterprise's case is pending."
In his veto message, the governor urged the legislature to bring forward a stronger bill that creates a "consistent standard that is transparent, understandable, and implementable throughout the state."
Schwarzenegger also signed an anti-paparazzi bill.
A victim of reckless-driving paparazzi himself, he signed legislation to create criminal punishment of photojournalists that violate traffic laws with the intent to capture an image of a person for a commercial purpose.
Assembly Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) made a late amendment to her AB 2479 that added the vehicle code sections. In the last week of the session, the CNPA and the California Broadcasters Association testified in opposition to the late amendments in hastily convened hearings of the Senate Public Safety and Assembly Judiciary committees. The Senate voted 21-13 and Assembly voted 54-21 to finally approve the bill.
The August 20 amendments, drafted and sponsored by Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, make it a misdemeanor instead of an infraction to violate any of three existing Vehicle Code Sections -- tailgating, reckless driving and interfering with the operation of a vehicle -- "with the intent to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of another person for a commercial purpose."
The bill creates enhanced punishment: more than two-and-a-half times the penalties for reckless driving without the intent to capture an image, and in the case of reckless driving that places a child in harm's way, six times as much punishment than for regular misdemeanants, up to a maximum $5,000 fine and one year imprisonment.
AB 2479 also amends the state's civil anti-paparazzi law (Civil Code Sec.1708.8) to include "false imprisonment that is committed in order to obtain a visual image or other impression of the person."