Predictability and consistency are traits not often associated with Gov. Jerry Brown, as was once again demonstrated by his choice of which of hundreds of bills to sign or veto at the end of the past legislative session.
He was praised and criticized by both the California Chamber of Commerce and labor organizations after pleasing, then disappointing both on a number of controversial bills.
Brown surprised and disappointed organized labor with his veto of Assembly Bill 104, which would have allowed unions to organize farm workers without a vote. The measure would have opened the door to so-called card check, which would have let labor organizers certify unions without elections by employees.
The governor also vetoed another favorite union measure, Assembly Bill 101, which would have allowed at-home child-care workers to organize unions, thereby boosting the cost of child care during a weak economy.
Another bill supported by unions that Brown vetoed was Senate Bill 559. It would have unreasonably increased business litigation costs by limiting judicial discretion to reduce or deny exorbitant attorneys fees in fair employment and housing claims that should have been raised in a limited civil proceeding.
We strongly support these vetoes and believe they are in the best interest of a state that is in dire economic trouble.
Unfortunately, the governor did not go far enough in vetoing some bad legislation that is likely to cause economic and legal trouble later.
Among the worst bills signed by Brown was Assembly Bill 202. It limits ballot initiatives to the November general elections, which is fine. However, the bill also contains a provision to postpone a scheduled June 2012 vote on whether to amend the California Constitution to strengthen the state's rainy day fund.
Democrats agreed to place that measure on the ballot to win support from Republican lawmakers as part of the budget deal. By signing the bill, Brown broke a promise and raised some constitutional issues that may well lead to litigation.
Another union-backed measure signed by Brown was Assembly Bill 506, which makes it extremely difficult for a city to declare bankruptcy and force renegotiation of labor contracts. The possibility of a bankruptcy was a valuable tool for cities to use to obtain union concessions during tough economic times.
Brown also signed Assembly Bill 348, which makes it all but impossible for public libraries to contract out for services. As a result, some libraries will be forced to reduce hours or even close branches.
Brown surprisingly vetoed a progressive bill that would have reformed the way high school performance is measured. It would have broadened the methods beyond test scores to include graduation rates and student preparation for college and jobs.
The governor exhibited his inconsistency in vetoing a bill that would have required helmets for young skiers and snowboarders, citing concerns about transferring authority from parents to the state.
Yet he signed legislation to let children 12 and older seek medical care to prevent sexually transmitted infections without parental consent. Then he signed a bill banning minors from using tanning salons.
Brown indicated he would wield his veto aggressively but vetoed about the average percentage of bills previous governors vetoed, even though he complained about the huge number of unnecessary measures.
What the governor will do in the next session of the Legislature is anyone's guess, but no one should expect consistency to emerge.