Jerry Brown Not Saying “No” To New Laws As Much as Other Modern Governors

Among the many useful activities conducted on behalf of the people of California by the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance is its annual report, How Often Do Governors Say No?

Some more than others is the short answer.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a lower percentage of bills in 2012 – 12 percent — than the 14 percent he vetoed in 2011, the committee determined.

However, in both years his veto rates were higher than during his first two terms as governor when he had a 4.4 percent average over the eight years from 1975 to the end of 1982.

Brown’s veto percentage in 2012 is the lowest average percentage since Gov. Ronald Reagan’s 1967 veto rate of 13 percent.

Adding up Brown’s tally for the past two years and the previous eight he was the state’s chief executive, he has signed 12,744 bills  — 876 this year. 

That’s a higher total than any of his predecessors since 1967. His career-to-date veto total – 773 bills — is the lowest of all governors since Reagan took office in January 1967. 

Gov. George Deukmejian and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hold the record for most bills vetoed in a year. Deukmejian nixed 436 bills in 1990; Schwarzenegger terminated 414 in 2008.

The governor has 30 days to act on bills passed by the Legislature on or after August 20. Measures approved prior to that date must be acted on within 12 days.

This year, 767 bills – 77 percent – were acted on during the 30 days of September following the Legislature’s August 31 adjournment.

In 1982, Brown set the modern record for lowest number of vetoes – refusing to sign just 30 bills of the 1,674 he considered.

His father, Gov. Pat Brown, acted on about 7,500 bills during his two terms as governor, 1958 to 1966. He vetoed 512, about 6 percent.

The five years with the fewest chaptered bills have all been since 2007.

While Deukmejian, who left office in 1990, vetoed the most bills — 2,298 over eight years – Schwarzenegger’s 1,970 vetoes over his seven years in office place the former action star’s average of 281 per year close to Deukmejian’s average of 287 vetoes per year.

Schwarzenegger vetoed over three times as many bills in his seven years as Brown did in his first eight years — and more than twice as many as the 843 bills Reagan refused to sign during his two terms.

Since 1967, the Legislature has sent the governor an annual average of 1,444 bills.

In 2011, the Legislature passed the lowest number of bills in 45 years — 870.

Over its two-year session that ended August 31, the current Legislature sent Brown fewer bills to consider than during any other two-year period since 1967.


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