Governor moves to the right on key issues in flurry of bill signings, but keeps some enviros happy

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger moved to the right on big-ticket items
to shore up his political base as voters prepare to decide on his special
election initiatives, vetoing legislation to raise the minimum wage by 50
cents, allow illegal immigrants to get drivers’ licenses, permit gay couples
to legally marry and expand government-paid health care to 800,000 children.

On this year’s highest-priority bills with the greatest economic impact,
Schwarzenegger sided with his pro-business allies. But Schwarzenegger took a
more eclectic view of other legislation, signing bills on gay rights and
environmental protection pushed by Democrats.

Tim Hodson, of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media, said
Schwarzenegger is acting on legislation in accordance with his more moderate

“[His politics are] inconsistent if you view him in the traditional prism of
Democratic-Republican politics. But, if you look at him as what he was in
the last two years–as a new type of political animal–or what used to be
called a Progressive Republican, it’s not inconsistent as much as it is
taking the strange new breed of moderate politician and looking at things in
black and white.”

The governor’s vetoes, while expected, reassured his fellow Republicans on
the eve of an unprecedented 10 million-piece campaign mailing targeting
absentee GOP voters. Although both the governor’s office and the campaign
declare that their operations are separate, Schwarzenegger’s vetoes and
signings likely will resonate on Nov. 8, experts say.

Schwarzenegger seeks passage of four measures–to limit the ability of
public-employee unions to raise political cash, make it easier to fire
school teachers, limit year-to-year budget spending and let retired judges
draw political boundaries.

“He’s a pro-business Republican and a lot of his vetoes are what you would
expect from a pro-business Republican,” said political analyst Jack Pitney
of Claremont McKenna College. “On the other hand, he’s a California
pro-business Republican, which may explain the signing of some environmental

“He’s going to make the argument that the Legislature is broken and that
they (lawmakers) sent him impractical bills,” Pitney added. “Arnold is going
to make it (the Nov. 8 special election) a referendum on the Legislature,
and the Democrats are going to make it a referendum on Arnold.”

As Schwarzenegger’s actions on 961 bills drew to a close, the governor sided
with the California Chamber of Commerce and business interests on most of
the latter’s top priorities, and opposed major bills backed by labor. But he
departed from some Republicans on social issues and on legislation sought by
consumers and environmentalists.

Some of the more than two-dozen environmental bills he signed drew
nationwide attention, most notably a bill that would require new California
cars beginning in 2009 to carry stickers displaying their greenhouse gas
emissions, and another barring commercial ships from dumping sewage or
burning garbage within three miles of the coast.

Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have repaid $500 million to the
State Teachers’ Retirement System–money that was taken away two years ago
during a budget-balancing move.

He also vetoed bills that would have exempted some special-education
students from mandatory high school exit exams, and which would have allowed
students to graduate from high school if they took an alternate performance
test, instead. And the governor, heeding the views of law enforcement groups
and victims’ families, rejected legislation that would have given
journalists greater access to prison inmates. Both former Govs. Pete Wilson
and Gray Davis vetoed similar bills.

In some cases, Schwarzenegger offered conflicting signals. For example:

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