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Governor: Give me Delta deal first, then I'll sign bills

East Bay lawmakers have a stack of bills among the hundreds of pieces of legislation that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatened to veto this weekend if state leaders fail to cut a deal to fix the fragile Delta.

The bills range from the placement of employers' insurance status online to the evaluation of student testing to the inclusion of personnel at health clubs' child care centers under regulations designed to shield youngsters from pedophiles.

"The thing about the veto is that most of these bills will all come back next year, so he is not punishing us," said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord. "It is a counterproductive strategy to veto bills, some of which he supports, to force an artificial deadline on a process that was already making progress.

Assembly Majority Leader and state attorney general candidate Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, said that if the governor follows through on his veto threat, Torrico will unveil a bill Monday proposing a ban on what he called legislative and executive "extortion."

"This is a new low for the governor, but it really is in keeping with the tenor and tone in Sacramento of negotiation through ransom notes," Torrico said.

Torrico cited Republicans' successful moves in recent years to exact policy wins such as tax breaks for the horse-racing industry and a ballot measure that would create an open-primary electoral system, in return for their votes on the state budget.


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Schwarzenegger, and the majority and minority leaders in the state Senate and Assembly — collectively dubbed the Big Five — have been meeting behind closed doors in a push to revive a water reform policy that stalled in the Legislature in September.

But the governor infuriated legislators when he announced last week that he would hold bills hostage pending a water deal. The governor has until midnight Sunday to veto or sign the roughly 700 bills passed by the Legislature.

"We will never operate efficiently if every action is under some kind of threat," said Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, whose 15th District includes a large chunk of the Delta. "You have people in Sacramento who want to show that they can accomplish something, but I am more concerned about getting it right. What's the rush?"

Among East Bay legislators' bills on the chopping block:

  • DeSaulnier has seven bills on the governor's desk, including a plan for a $2 surcharge on the state's vehicle license fee to fund regional planning required in a new state law that links transportation dollars and land-use decisions. He also wrote a bill that would require child care center workers at health clubs to submit to the same background checks required of employees in other day care businesses.

  • Buchanan sponsored bills to put online whether a company has workers' compensation insurance and a requirement that the state consider the residency of potential clients and employees when opening new offices.

  • Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, has bills that require a performance evaluation of the soon-to-expire STAR testing in public schools, establish a task force to improve the state's failing classroom digital literacy grades, and add the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges to the list of structures eligible for seismic retrofit dollars.

  • Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, has a bill that would allow counties to impose fees of as much as $10 per vehicle to raise money for projects that ease traffic congestion. And another would let cities and counties create financing authorities to help property owners pay upfront for solar-energy systems, energy efficiency improvements and water conservation measures.

  • Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, is concerned about the fate of her bills to resolve a dispute with Caltrans in her district and to preserve an Alameda County violence prevention program.

  • Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, has bills that would require public hearings before a hospital emergency room can be shut down, halt sales of electronic cigarettes, update the list of public school facilities that need to be seismically retrofitted and bar petition-signature gatherers from being paid per signature.

    Reach Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773 or lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com. Reach Josh Richman at 510-208-6428 or jrichman@bayareanewsgroup.com.