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San Mateo County lawmakers stung by veto pen

By Aaron Kinney
Monday, October 13th, 2008 at 5:44 pm in Aaron Kinney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic Party, Fiona Ma, Gene Mullin, Ira Ruskin, Joe Simitian, Leland Yee, San Mateo County.

Following Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent “Conan the Barbarian” routine, when he vetoed more than one-third of the bills that landed on his desk, we thought it would be worthwhile to see how our local legislators made out amid the carnage.

Here are the tallies for San Mateo County’s five state legislators, provided by their offices:

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco
Status — Severely wounded

Ma, whose 12th District includes parts of the North County, including Colma and Daly City, had nine bills signed into law. Nine were vetoed.

Among her successes was a measure dubbed Bright Schools that’s designed in part to make it easier for schools to install solar panels. Among the vetoes? A bill that would have prohibited “the commercial display of human remains” — in shows like “Body Works,” which features skinless corpses in athletic poses — “without the documented informed consent from the deceased or next-of-kin.”

Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco
Status — Bludgeoned

Conan the Budgetarian killed nine of Mullin’s bills, while approving seven bills and one resolution.
The bill with the highest profile for Mullin was a measure to protect the safety of academic researchers, an issue that got a lot of attention after a University of California, Santa Cruz researcher’s home was attacked by radicals protesting experiments on animals.

Mullin was irked, however, by the Vetonator’s nixing of a couple of educational improvement bills, designed to simplify school finances and bring greater transparency to the selection of instructional materials, that had received strong bipartisan support.

“We’re just quite frankly surprised by the vetoes,” said Mullin, noting that Schwarzenegger’s kill ratio has created “a lot of dissatisfaction on both sides of the aisle.”

Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City
Status — Practically unscathed

Ruskin had 10 bills signed into law. Just one was vetoed. That’s a 91 percent success rate, folks.

Ruskin was particularly pleased with the success of AB 2261, which is meant to cut down on the high cost of college textbooks by enabling community colleges to use free online course materials. Ruskin also won passage of a bill requiring the manufacturers of mercury thermostats to create free recycling programs for consumers.

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto
Status — Strong like bull

Conan was merciful, striking down a mere six of Simitian’s bills. Fourteen others became law, including SB 28, which outlaws text messaging while driving. The new law goes into effect Jan. 1.

Simitian, whose district extends into southern San Mateo County, was also the author of the state law requiring cell phone users to employ handless headsets while driving. Man, this guy’s no fun. What’s he going to outlaw next? Shaving while driving? Painting your toenails while driving? Playing the accordion while driving?

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco
Status — Just fine, thanks

The always prolific Yee, whose district includes much of San Mateo County, got the best of the Budgeterian this year, winning approval for 13 bills as well as a resolution to name the new Devil’s Slide tunnel after the late Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo.

Four of Yee’s bills were vetoed, including SB 1527, which sought to allow the state to sell the Cow Palace’s 13-acre upper parking lot, so that Daly City could revitalize the area with a grocery store and other amenities.

Yee took particular exception to the veto of SB 1447, which would have helped the San Bruno Park School District to use $1.4 million from the sale of the old Carl Sandburg School property to fund operational expenses, according to spokesman Adam Keigwin.

“San Bruno was frustrating,” he said.

The governor’s veto message asserted that, in order to use the $1.4 million, the district would have to forgo its eligibility for additional funding through state school facility bonds. Keigwin said such a provision would be punitive and unfair.

“(District leaders) need some flexibility and this bill that would have done that,” Keigwin said. “It’s our opinion that our schools need more options, not less.”

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