Schwarzenegger Vetoes, Signs Bills to Close 2004

Issuing a flood of last-minute vetoes, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) struck down bills Thursday that would have helped Californians buy low-cost Canadian drugs, given some protections to car buyers and limited some home foreclosures.

He also vetoed bills that would have required companies to give consumers at least 30 days to claim rebates, made it easier for reporters to interview prison inmates, and boosted penalties for employers who violate equal pay requirements.

Altogether, the Republican governor rejected 71 bills on the last day for him to sign or veto legislation passed during the closing hours of the Legislature's 2004 session. He signed 50 bills, including measures to allow some former drug offenders to qualify for food stamps and to cover the medical costs of victims of pesticide spraying.

His most controversial move of the day may have been to veto bills that would have required the state to establish a Web site that consumers could have used to buy lower-cost prescriptions through Canadian pharmacies.

"The governor of the Golden State had a golden opportunity to stand with California consumers and seniors and implement these critical reforms," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat. "Instead, he chose to side with pharmaceutical companies. That is a shame."

Schwarzenegger said the bills would have violated federal law and "exposed the state to civil, criminal and tort liability."

"We all would like to see low-income, uninsured residents have access to more affordable medicines, but measures such as this oversimplify the complex safety, trade, supply and pricing issues involved in this marketplace," he said.

The car buyers' protection bill would have capped car dealers' markups on auto loan interest rates, set standards for "certified" used cars and required disclosure of certain "add-ons" to car sales contracts.

Schwarzenegger said he would be willing to reconsider the issue, but contended this year's legislation probably would have forced the state into "costly investigations over unenforceable and conflicting definitions."

Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez (search), another Democrat, accused Schwarzenegger of caving in to pressure from auto dealers. She said she had agreed to several changes sought by the governor's office, including dropping a provision that would have given used car buyers three days to return an unsatisfactory vehicle.

The home foreclosure bill would have required the 37,000 homeowners associations in California to go to small claims courts to recover unpaid debts of less than $2,500 from their members.

The bill was prompted by the case of a Calaveras County couple whose $285,000 home was auctioned by their homeowners association to recover a $120 debt.

Schwarzenegger said the bill was too broad and would have resulted in higher assessments for homeowners who pay their bills on time.