Capitol Notebook By Marisa Lagos
Chronicle Columnist
Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown has taken great care in recent weeks to warn his fellow Democrats in the Capitol that his party affiliation doesn’t spell a slam dunk for the hundreds of bills they sent him this month.

But the governor, who is being lobbied hard by various interest groups as he considers about 500 bills before an Oct. 9 deadline, also has shown that he’s not above party politics when it comes to deciding which measures to sign or veto.

There was his veto message to a parks bill by Republican Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach (Orange County), in which the governor said the measure was unnecessary but “what the parks do need is sufficient funding to stay open – something I feel compelled to note the author and his colleagues refused to let the people vote on.”

Brown also made some shrewd comments when asked about a letter sent to him Tuesday by Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare, and her predecessor, Martin Garrick of Carlsbad (San Diego County).

In that communication, the two attempted to appeal to the governor’s sense of bipartisanship in urging him to veto SB202, which would move all citizen-sponsored initiatives off primary ballots and onto general election ballots, when there is higher voter turnout. SB202 would also delay voter consideration of the creation of a rainy-day fund from 2012 – a deal Republicans won in budget negotiations last year – to 2014.

Conway and Garrick argued that moving that rainy-day fund to the 2014 ballot would break a promise and further strain the two parties’ rocky relationship in Sacramento. But the letter was sent one day before a Field Poll showed strong support among all voters, including Republicans, for SB202.

“I think they are a little out of touch with their own members, because obviously the public seems to want that, so maybe I should just flaunt the will of the majority of Republicans, independents, Democrats,” Brown said, an apparent reference to GOP lawmakers’ continued insistence that because voters rejected taxes in 2009, putting them on the ballot again would violate the will of the voters.

The governor, who has, lately, bemoaned the influence of antitax organizations on GOP lawmakers, wasn’t done there.

“I look at what bills make sense … I look at both sides,” he said. “But bipartisanship is a rather odd banner for them to march under because of the very tight discipline they have exercised, and not by their leadership but by the ideological constraints they have wrapped themselves in.”

Brown also noted that Republicans aren’t the only ones lobbying him: He said his phone has been ringing off the hook, and among those calls was one from business magnate Richard Branson, who called from Australia to urge the governor to sign a bill banning shark fin soup in California. On Friday, he said he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll sign or veto it.

In the hot seat: BART and its Police Department have been taking a lot of heat lately, and it doesn’t look like things are easing up anytime soon.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, announced Friday that he will hold a hearing Tuesday on the “training, policies and procedures of the BART Police Department.”

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