Brown vetoes death-benefit bill in late action

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California Governor Jerry Brown

California Governor Jerry Brown (AP photo)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – An expansion of death benefits for the families of public safety workers and a renewal of the Hollywood tax credit are among the bills Gov. Jerry Brown acted upon late Sunday, the last day to sign or veto the more than 900 pieces of legislation that reached his desk this fall.

The Democratic governor rejected legislation written by Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, that would have given the families of law enforcement officers and firefighters more time to file for job-related death benefits.

The bill, which would have doubled the statute of limitations for these benefits to nine years, was an attempt to accommodate cases in which a worker has a prolonged battle with cancer, tuberculosis or another illness presumed to be job-related.

Perez had argued that the state should take care of those who expose themselves to harmful chemicals for the good of the community.

In an unusually long veto message, Brown said the state did not have enough information about health risks among public servants to evaluate the potential costs of expanding death benefits, which can exceed $300,000 per family.

“What is needed is rational, thoughtful consideration of balancing the serious fiscal constraints faced at all levels of government against our shared priority to adequately and fairly compensate the families of those public safety heroes who succumb to work-related injuries and disease,” Brown said in the message.

He said AB2451, as written, could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The governor encouraged lawmakers to use a forthcoming National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study of firefighter deaths to craft future legislation.

Perez told reporters on Monday that he would work to allay the “legitimate concern” about the cost of the bill.

“But you also have to look at what we’re asking people to do,” he said. “We ask people on a daily basis, in doing their jobs, to put their lives on the line.”

Brown also signed two nearly identical bills extending a Hollywood tax break for films and television shows shot in California as part of his last-minute legislative action.

Proponents say that since the credit was implemented in 2009, it has generated billions of dollars in economic activity by encouraging film production to remain in California. But in June, the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office found that the tax credit is likely to return less than one dollar in tax revenue for every dollar spent.

The bills – AB2026 by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar, and SB1197 by Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Monterey Park- will extend the tax break for two years and provide up to $200 million in incentives.

“What we hear so often from the film industry is that they want to film here in California, but financially it is challenging,” Fuentes said in a statement issued Sunday. “What we’re doing with this bill is retaining and creating jobs by leveling the playing field and making California competitive again.”

A few lawmakers opposed the tax credit, saying it unfairly favored one industry over others. The American Cancer Society also opposed the bills and said the credits should go only to tobacco-free movies.

The governor acted on several other noteworthy bills in the hours before the signing deadline: Among other bills, he:

- Signed AB1960 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, which will require the state to track the number of gay and lesbian business owners with which it contracts. California already collects data on contractors’ race, ethnicity and gender. The bill would not require business owners to identify their sexual orientation. “With the Governor’s signature, California is now the first state to have a law dedicated to the advancement of LGBT-owned businesses,” Dickinson said in a statement.

-Vetoed SB1233 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, which would have required the attorney general to prepare up to nine language translations of some initiative and referendum summaries for petition circulators to display. Brown said in a statement that the bill was well-intentioned but added “substantial burdens to the petition process without commensurate benefit.”  He noted that most ballot initiatives submitted to the state never reach the circulation stage.

- Vetoed AB889, which would have provided overtime pay, meal breaks and other labor protections to an estimated 200,000 caregivers, nannies and house cleaners in California. Brown said the bill by Assemblymen Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, and V. Manuel Perez, D-Coachella, “raises a number of unanswered questions,” prompting him to reject the measure.

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