FILE -- in this Sept. 10, 2018 file photo, State Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, right shakes hands with Calif., Gov. Jerry Brown after signed de Leon's environmental measure SB100, in Sacramento, Calif. Brown, who served as governor from 1975 until 1983, and was reelected in 2010, signed the last bill of his 16 years as California's governor Sunday Sept. 30, 2018. At left is Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, who carried the bill in the Assembly. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Brown shows governing philosophy in final bill action

October 01, 2018 - 6:02 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Preparing to leave office after four decades, California Gov. Jerry Brown exercised his final signatures and vetoes this weekend to put the closing stamp on a governing philosophy he has espoused during two separate eight-year stints.

The actions, and the quirky statements that accompanied them, revealed the "paddle left, paddle right" governing approach of California's longest-serving governor and three-time presidential candidate. Brown pushed California to new frontiers of liberal policies and frustrated his Democratic allies by using his veto pen to pump the brakes.

"16 years — and nearly 20,000 bills — later, the desk is clear. #Eureka," the 80-year-old wrote on Twitter alongside a video showing photos of him signing bills dating back to 1975. Eureka, an exclamation meaning "I found it," is California's official motto.

Brown on Sunday further secured California's role as a progressive beacon by signing a tough law restoring net neutrality protections, inviting an immediate lawsuit from the Trump administration, and requiring companies to put women on their boards of directors.

But he decided university health centers shouldn't be forced to sell abortion medications nor should San Francisco be allowed to open what could be the nation's first supervised drug injection site.

In typical fashion, his actions made fellow Democrats both cheer and sigh.

"He will only give so much, and then he's done," said Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who saw several of her bills inspired by the #MeToo movement get vetoed.

Altogether in 2018, Brown signed 1,016 bills and vetoed 201, according to his office. The veto rate of 16.5 percent was slightly higher than prior years.

The terse statements announcing his vetoes or explaining his decision to sign a bill have become legendary in Sacramento. They explain his reasoning, often with acerbic wit, Latin phrases or biblical references tossed in.

Some include themes he returns to often: Not every human failing needs to be fixed with a law. Expensive programs should be handled in budget negotiations. Some decisions are best made at the local level.

Others are unique.

On a law mandating that corporate boards include women, he noted that "many are not getting the message" and sent a copy to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. His missive came days after the committee examined accusations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted a high school classmate. Kavanagh denies the allegation.

On a bill allowing certain big cities to allow 4 a.m. closing times, he wrote: "I believe we have enough mischief between midnight and 2 without adding two more hours of mayhem."

The messages are "snippets of his intellect" that reflect Brown's preference for brevity, go beyond political messaging and put his action in the context of history, culture and morality, said Sen. Steve Glazer, a Democrat from the East Bay, who was Brown's political adviser and 2010 campaign manager.

"It's a deeper dive that's not constrained by what is a Democrat or Republican philosophical view of the matter at hand," Glazer said. "And he definitely enjoys putting that personal touch on the matter."

Gonzalez Fletcher said Brown pushes businesses with the environmental mandates that are close to his heart, so he's reluctant to push them further by signing the labor regulations she favors.

She was especially surprised he vetoed a measure designed to address labor trafficking, which he said included provisions too burdensome for businesses.

"He just I think ran out of patience and my bill happened to come on his desk late," Gonzalez Fletcher said.

He also vetoed a bill she wrote prohibiting employers to require workers to sign mandatory arbitration agreements.

Brown signed off in characteristic form. In a statement attached to the last bill he'll ever sign, he quoted Exodus' exhortation against charging interest of the poor.

"From the time of Moses, usury has been condemned," he wrote. "Loans that exploit low income borrowers are especially abhorrent."

He then closed with a look ahead to retirement on his family's ranch north of Sacramento, where he and his wife have built a home: "PS: And now onto the Promised Land--Colusa County!"


This story has been updated to correct Brown's age. He is 80.