LOS ANGELES-After threatening to veto hundreds of bills if state legislators did not reach an agreement on a sweeping overhaul of the state's crumbling water infrastructure, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has backed down, claiming in a written statement, that "we have made enough progress in our negotiations."
Schwarzenegger signed bills to reduce the prison population, allow law enforcement to seize the assets of human traffickers, and enable charter schools to use bond money for construction. He vetoed bills designed to stop "puppy mills," freeze pay for university administrators, and require additional oversight over fertility clinics.
One controversial bill he signed gives same-sex couples married in other states the same legal rights in California as heterosexual couples legally married in the once-Golden State. Because California voters passed Proposition 8, the state does not allow gay marriage, and Proposition 8 backers have predicted a court battle over the new law. Schwarzenegger also reversed himself on a bill declaring May 22 a day of recognition for the late gay activist Harvey Milk: Last year he vetoed it; this year he signed it.
Schwarzenegger said he will call a special legislative session to address the water issue, and a bipartisan agreement could come soon. Californians, however, have seen negotiations on the contentious issue break down before. Any compromise bill must satisfy a number of fiercely opposed constituencies, as well as find a way to fund proposed new dams and ensure environmental protection of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
While legislators will be pleased to see Schwarzenegger back down from his stance and take action on their bills, the governor's backers will be wondering whether his threat was ill advised. With his term ending next year and his popularity at a record low, Schwarzenegger is desperate to get a water bill passed now. He has few tools left to force the legislature to take action.