Californians may never know if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was bluffing last week when he threatened to veto most if not all of the hundreds of bills on his desk as a way to leverage legislative leaders into a deal on the state's water supply and the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
On Sunday, the governor announced that he was satisfied with the progress of the water negotiations, and then he signed or vetoed all the pending bills before his midnight deadline.
"While we still have a few remaining issues to work out," Schwarzenegger said in a written statement, "I commend the legislative leaders for their focus and commitment to solving this crisis and I will weigh all the bills on their merits."
Maybe we should be giving Schwarzenegger style points for openness since, after all, governors everywhere and for all time have used their veto power to nudge lawmakers into actions they might not otherwise want to take. As Attorney General Jerry Brown, a former governor himself, said, the legislative process is a "rough and tumble" business where outcomes are "not achieved by doilies and tea."
Still, it strikes us as yet another illustration of California's governmental dysfunction when the state's chief executive feels the need to announce he will consider the merits of proposed laws before he takes action on them.
A new poll released today by the independent Field Research Corp. found that public approval ratings for Schwarzenegger and the Legislature are at an all-time low. Just 27 percent of Californians approve of the governor's performance, the first time he has dipped below 30 percent in his six years in office. And a minuscule 13 percent approve of the job the Legislature is doing. By backing down, or at least not following through on his mass veto threat, Schwarzenegger avoided an action that would have sparked a new and bitter round of bad blood and recriminations and only added to the public's disdain for him and everyone else in the Capitol.
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