Friday, October 7, 2011

Jerry Brown vetoes SB223, pockets SB910

First Jerry Brown vetoed Sen. Mark Leno's SB 223, a bill which would have allowed cities to restore the vehicle license fee which Governor Schwarzenegger had eliminated during his administration. Whether or not you think cities tax too much or not, vehicle fees are fair and rational, because they help reimburse the city for infrastructure supporting motor vehicles. Further they have a negative impact on congestion, promote public safety by getting cars off the road, and promote demand for public transit which helps promote denser schedules. The bill didn't establish a fee, it merely gave cities the right to impose them.

But SB910, the Lowenthal's bill to mandate a 3-foot passing zone when a motor vehicle passes a cyclist while driving at least 15 mph, seemed different. There was no reasonable argument against the bill, which had early flaws but which was, after several iterations, pounded into excellent shape. Amazingly, despite the opposition of the Republican minority and even some Democrats, passed the legislature. Surely Brown, the popular Democratic governor, would pass it. But it sat on his desk. And sat. And sat.

And he didn't sign it. Instead of the bill, he signed a letter to the legislator explaining why he'd pocket the bill, allowing it to expire.

The letter is here.

I'm not going to waste any time transcribing the bitmapped letter here. The logic is so broken, so flawed, that it amazes me the man could have possibly gotten into Yale Law School. His letter follows twisted reasoning which ignores the evidence from over a dozen states already with such legislation, and of much of Europe (Germany, rural France, Spain) which doesn't have a 3-foot passing rule, but a 1.5 meter rule which is close to 5 feet. Despite receiving 1500 letters in support, including from Lance Armstrong who perhaps has some experience with riding a bike, he instead chose to follow the brilliant legislative analysis of the California Highway Patrol.

The Highway Patrol is paid to enforce the law, not create the law, not analyze the law. They're good at chasing down fugitives on the highway. That Brown, the attorney general of the state from 2007 until early this year, would follow the advice of the CHP leads me conclude one of the following:

  1. He's senile
  2. He's corrupt

In either case, while I was formerly a Jerry Brown opponent, I can no longer support his presence in political office. Seriously, could Meg Whitman have been much worse? Perhaps, but certainly not on the issue of cyclist rights.

The whole thing disgusts me. Maybe the bill can make a recovery next year, But it's unlikely. More likely we'll need to wait until a dozen or two dozen more states pass similar bills, by which point the tide will carry us in the right direction. But any notion of California being a national leader in cyclists rights is hopelessly lost at this point, despite the fact the state has the best conditions for cycling in the country, and the best roads to do it on.

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