Labor bills have Brown in legislative bind


Governor Brown was in Las Vegas Monday speaking to labor union delegates. Later this week, he's scheduled to speak at a nursing union convention in San Francisco.

After seven years under a Republican governor, California unions are eager for more laws to work in their favor.

The labor-backed bills put Brown in a quandary.

Vetoes could strain his relationship with public-employee unions that helped get him elected, but signing them could upset Brown's business friends.

"I think this governor is a maverick," said Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio. "He's had a track record of independence. He's going to look at what business wants, what labor wants and do the best thing for the state in this time of economic turmoil."

One hot-button measure allows subsidized childcare providers the ability to unionize.

Another moves all ballot initiatives from June to November, giving unions a chance to mobilize a greater turnout on a proposal that weakens their political voice by limiting contributions.

And one bill requires state agencies to have labor agreements in place for construction projects.

Under a typical Democratic governor, they might have been signed.

"No slam dunks in this business. And certainly no slam dunks with Governor Brown," said state Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Brown has already shown streaks of conservatism: He rejected a bill mandating helmets for skiers and snowboarders under 18, and he refused to raise the fines for texting or calling on a cellphone while driving.

The Oakland Democrat has also vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for farm workers to unionize.

Republicans are worried about the current slate of union bills and are hopeful Brown won't rubberstamp them.

"My hope is that he is more thoughtful than that," said state Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville). "We've seen some evidence of that. I think he's got to be careful and take the middle road."

The governor has already said California has too many laws on the books and said last week why his veto pen has been active.

"We can make many of those bills better, and we'll have the opportunity very soon to do exactly that," said Brown on September 1.

In addition to the labor measures, Brown has until October 9 to act on the hundreds of bills that are sitting on his desk.

Brown's veto rate the first time he was governor, from 1975-1983, was less than 5 percent.

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