Sacramento lawmakers are taking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to task over his decision to veto some bills that arrived on his desk both prior to and subsequent to the passage of the state budget last month.

Among the legislators is Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance, who blasted the governor for giving little or no reason for not signing several bills into law. Lieu’s district includes most of the Argonaut readership area south of Santa Monica.

“I believe that this was a dereliction of duty,” the assemblyman told The Argonaut after learning of the governor’s veto. “He vetoed a lot of very good bills, and what is particularly disturbing is, he vetoed over 130 bills because he didn’t have time to read them.”

Schwarzenegger has said in interviews subsequent to legislators’ criticisms that because of the delay in producing a budget, the time left to sign bills into law was shortened.

Lieu mentioned that Schwarzenegger chose to make an appearance at the Republican National Convention in September when budget discussions were still ongoing.

“It seems that it was more of a priority to attend a partisan convention than to sign important legislation that can benefit the people of California,” said Lieu. “If he had time to do all that, certainly he had the time to do the work that the California Constitution charges him with.”

The governor disputed the notion that he did not give the vetoed bills due consideration.

“We have normally 30 days to sign bills, but because of the delay in the budget we only had ten this year,” said Schwarzenegger. “But I can assure you that every bill got full attention.”

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass of Culver City said in a statement, “Here in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just set a record of vetoes. It’s not a record to be proud of.

“In the middle of a financial crisis and a mortgage meltdown that’s hitting California particularly hard, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed bills to reform the mortgage industry and stimulate the economy.”

Bass noted that several of the rejected bills were legislation that had bipartisan support in both houses of the State Legislature.

“He vetoed bills to aid troubled veterans, increase access to healthcare and implement education reform,” she noted. “There are more than 130 bills that the governor didn’t even bother to give real consideration to,” she pointed out.

LOCAL REACTION TO DERELICT BOAT VETO — Assembly Bill (AB) 1950, authored by Lieu, which would have allowed municipalities and counties greater access to funding for the demolition of derelict boats, was one of the many proposed bills that Schwarzenegger rejected.

The proposed bill had the backing of several state agencies, including the Department of Boating and Waterways.

Locally, representatives of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors have stated in previous interviews that AB 1950 could greatly assist them in their goal of taking abandoned and decrepit boats out of the water.

“These derelict boats are being left on the [waterways] at taxpayers’ expense,” said Kerry Silverstrom, chief deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors. “People who abandon their boats are taking advantage of the taxpayers, who ultimately have to pay for the removal or the storage of these vessels.”

The cost to the county of storing these boats can become expensive. Storage charges in Marina del Rey start at 90 cents a foot per day, and after the third day it increases by 45 cents. If a vessel is no longer seaworthy or is in poor condition, often the boat owner will not claim it, leaving the county with only two recourses — destroying the boat or auctioning it.

Assembly Bill 1950 would also have allowed local agencies to apply for existing grants to create programs to dispose of these surrendered vessels and increase fines for irresponsible boat owners who abandon their boats, polluting waterways and creating underwater hazards.

Grants could be obtained from the Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund, a state endowment that provides funding that covers average costs to remove, store and/or dispose of surrendered vessels and other navigational hazards.

Extra consideration is given to applicant agencies that are proactive in keeping abandoned vessels out of state waters and maintain a navigational hazard abatement plan.

Boat owners in Marina del Rey were happy to learn that the legislation had been defeated.

“I’m surprised to hear that [AB 1950] was rejected, but I’m delighted that it was,” said Andrew Bessette, the president of the Marina Boat Owners Association, which opposed the bill.

Hans Etter, whose boat is docked in the Marina, feels that Schwarzenegger was right to veto the bill.

“As I said before, it makes sense to veto that bill,” Etter said. “We cannot afford to spend millions of dollars on destroying boats that developers want to get out of their marinas. If they want to free up (boat rental) slips so they can get the parking spaces and traffic trips associated with those slips, let them pay for [removing] the boats, and not taxpayers.”

Etter was alluding to a firmly-held belief among many small boat owners in Marina del Rey that county officials have colluded with developers and lessees to reduce the number of boat rental slips in order to build larger developments and docks for larger vessels, leaving owners of smaller boats to find slips outside of Marina del Rey.

“Hopefully, Ted Lieu has learned a lesson, and next time he will talk to our community before he backstabs us,” Etter asserted.

Lieu said that he would seek to have Schwarzenegger’s veto overturned in the Legislature in January. A two-thirds vote is required to override the governor’s veto.

“This could not have come at a worse time,” Lieu lamented.

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