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California Governor Vetoes Anti-Motorist Bills
California governor vetoes legislation that would have treated motorists worse than other road users.

Governor Edmund G. Brown
California Governor Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday vetoed a number of bills opposed by motoring groups, including the National Motorists Association. Brown agreed that measures increasing various penalties against drivers were unnecessary. He also signed bills that, as an unintended side effect, will make it tougher for red light camera companies to continue business as usual.

Assembly Bill 1646 would have applied a license point and raised insurance rates for drivers who receive a ticket for using a cell phone while behind the wheel. The proposal passed by an overwhelming 32 to 3 vote in the state Senate and 66 to 13 in the Assembly with the enthusiastic support of insurance companies State Farm, Liberty Mutual and the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of California, all of which would have seen increased profits had the measure become law. Brown was not persuaded.

"I certainly support taking reasonable steps to curb cell phone use and texting while driving, but I don't believe this bill is necessary at this time to achieve that goal," the governor wrote in his veto message. "I'm instructing the Department of Motor Vehicles to add a question about the dangers of using a communication device on the driver license exam. Additionally, the department is beginning a review and analysis of data on distracted driving in California. Let's wait to see the results before enacting a law requiring a violation point."

Assembly Bill 1532 would have taken existing hit and run law and added special enhanced penalties if a pedestrian or bicyclist was involved. The measure was promoted by more than twenty cycling and walking lobbying organizations.

"California has a very extensive set of criminal laws and penalties," Brown explained. "This measure would create a new crime that includes a fine and penalty assessments up to $4231 and possible jail time of six months. I don't find sufficient justification for creating a new crime when no injury to person or property occurred. I think current law is adequate."

He vetoed a similar Assembly Bill 2398 creating special fines for injuring "vulnerable road users," which also included pedestrians and bicyclists, but would not apply if a passenger or driver of another car was injured.

"This measure adds a new moving violation to the Vehicle Code with fines and penalties up to $1361," Brown said. "I think current laws are sufficient."

Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 2673, which would have prohibited the victim of a hit-and-run accident to settle the case out-of-court, avoiding a costly legal battle.

"With trial courts facing severe backlogs, I am not inclined to eliminate a means for parties to settle their disputes outside the criminal court system," Brown said.

Red light camera companies will not be pleased by several bills that Brown did sign into law. Both American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and Redflex Traffic Systems face the prospect of paying former employees and contractors millions as a result of the state's interpretation of the prevailing wage law. Instead of limiting the definition, Brown signed bills to extend the reach of prevailing wage. He also signed a bill that would essentially force the companies to hire former convicts if they apply for jobs installing red light cameras.

Redflex is currently under federal investigation over allegations from a former company executive that it bribed public officials in thirteen states, including California. The firm will not be pleased that Assembly Bill 1666 passed, doubling the penalties for state and local officials who accept a bribe.

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