Not Every Veto Message a Gem

Gov. Jerry Brown writes and edits all his veto messages. That’s what Brown insists, a statement echoed by his staff.

His veto messages are invariably forthright, sometimes trenchant and often droll but, like anyone, there are a few arid patches where the mojo just ain’t risin’, to quote famed political analyst Jim Morrison.

Consider the September 30 veto message of Assembly Bill 2451.

This measure — by Speaker John Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat – would have doubled the statute of limitations 240 to 480 weeks during which dependents of firefighters and peace officers could collect death benefits for “cancer, tuberculosis or blood borne infection diseases.”

The Senate removed heart conditions from the list and added a sentence saying the date of injury had to have occurred when the firefighter or peace officer was on active duty, a rather glaring omission although it didn’t prevent the Assembly from initially approving the bill on a 69 to 4 vote.

As Brown argued in his veto message, the fiscal impact of such a change in law – even without heart conditions — would be significant for both state and local government.

Brown is a 1961 University of California at Berkeley Classics major who routinely punctuates his public utterances with often-accurate Latin phrases.

He prides himself on his erudition and verbal clarity, which might seem a bit discordant given the opaqueness of some of the policies he espoused during his first two terms in office more than three decades ago.

Nevertheless, in his decade in office during this century and the last, Brown has shown a consistent zeal for hacking through bloated bureaucratic verbiage to craft clean, unvarnished explanations of his position on legislation. 

That’s a gift Californians should appreciate more than they probably do.

But apparently some other important stuff must have been on the governor’s mind when AB 2451 got shoved in his face September 30. 

The fourth paragraph of his veto message reads:

“Meanwhile opponents decry any expansion of this nearly 100 year old limitation as wildly fiscally imprudent, opening the doors to fiscal ruin and damnation of our efforts to restore fiscal sanity to our state.”

That rocks for sure but there’s a missing comma after “Meanwhile,” and how about some dashes between “100-year-old?”

Not to mention the lack of a comma in the adverb-rich phrase, “wildly fiscally imprudent.”

As opposed to  “moderately,” “placidly” or “sedately fiscally imprudent?” 

A reward might also be in order for using the word “fiscal” twice in one sentence – with “fiscally” as icing.

In the third paragraph, the governor notes that supporters of the bill are worried a firefighter might die a “lingering and painful death “ Is there any other kind?

In the following paragraph, the governor of the Great State of California says that what’s needed is ”rational, thoughtful” consideration – a comma between the adjectives thankfully – but rather redundantly redundant since “rational” consideration is rarely arrived at without thought.

Says the governor in a subsequent paragraph:

“If deaths due to cancer for firefighters and peace officers approximate, let alone exceed, those of the general population, we can surmise the potential impact of doubling the statute of limitations.  It could increase costs to the state by tens of millions of dollars and at the local level by hundreds of millions.  Alternatively, there is little credible evidence that the circumstance this measure intends to address occurs other than rarely, yet tragically.”

In structure, syntactically, curious.

Brown does “reserve the option to revisit” the issue, however.


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