Veto Liberally: The Governor's Winning Strategy: Enrage Local Progressives

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed 805 bills to date this year, and vetoed just 96 — meaning material wending its way out of the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature stands an 89 percent chance of approval.

Among legislative Democrats, however, Brown does not enjoy a similarly high approval rating. "They are pissed," sums up Barbara O'Connor, the former director of Sacramento State University's Institute for the Study of Politics and Media. "They are not allowed to do the more progressive things they'd like to do with a Democratic majority because he says no."

"I am truly disappointed," sums up Sen. Mark Leno. Under cover of last week's Columbus Day holiday, Brown spiked 30 bills lingering from last month's close of the legislative session. It was a showing indicative of why Brown's fellow Bay Area liberals aren't his biggest fans. The governor vetoed six of Leno's bills alone, including measures that would have given district attorneys discretion in charging drug possession cases; an electronic privacy bill that would have required warrants be obtained before service providers disgorge people's information; and a measure that would have effectively ended the gun show at the Cow Palace. All of these progressive-friendly bills were opposed by law enforcement groups — and, ultimately, the governor.

But that shouldn't be a surprise. "Jerry Brown didn't get elected because he'd sign every bill reducing sentences for cocaine," says Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. The governor is expected to run again next year. "His larger concern," adds O'Connor, "is to not look too liberal and keep the business community as a partner. He obviously has a formula that's working for him. And it's annoying a lot of progressives."

It's also confusing them. "Sometimes he waits to see what the barometer is," sighs Ammiano. "And, sometimes, he's just Jerry Brown."

 
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