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Monday, Oct 01 2012 11:00 PM

Brown's pen wields wisdom -- mostly

By The Bakersfield Californian

Gov. Jerry Brown got things mostly right during a legislative calendar-closing flurry of bill signings and vetoes over the past few days.

At the top of that list is his signing of Assembly Bill 2189, which authorizes the state to issue driver's licenses to a category of illegal immigrants: Specifically, those affected by the Obama administration's decision to halt the deportation of certain noncitizens who came to the U.S. as children.

AB 2189 makes sense for several reasons, but here are two: First, it's in everyone's interest for us to have a better idea of who's in this country and who's operating vehicles on U.S. roads. When drivers are unlicensed -- which, by definition, is what undocumented immigrants are -- they are more apt to leave the scene of an accident, fearing deportation, and less likely to have car insurance. Licensed illegals -- yes, that's an oxymoron -- contribute to safer streets, and not just because the licensing process requires them to learn the rules of the road.

Second, it only makes sense to allow young people to qualify for licenses if they are accepted by the federal program that issues work permits to immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and are now 30 years old or younger. "President Obama has recognized the unique status of these students," Brown spokesman Gil Duran told the Los Angeles Times, "and making them eligible to apply for driver's licenses is an obvious next step."

The only realistic alternative would be to allow this shadowy class of de facto U.S. residents to continue to exist below the radar, unaccountable and unaccounted for. And that's unacceptable.

Brown vetoed AB 889, which would have given domestic workers such as nannies and housekeepers labor rights such as meal breaks, overtime pay and sleep-interruption bonuses. That might sound reasonable to some. Problem is, the employers of many of these domestic workers are ordinary families that may need caregivers for children and the elderly; they may not be in position to make these accommodations. Brown's veto made sense.

Brown signed AB 661, which restricts protests near funerals. Hate groups like the Westboro (Kan.) Baptist Church can still protest at military funerals -- they'll just have move back 300 feet. Their free-speech rights remain intact, as do grieving families' privacy rights. That signing made sense.

Brown wisely signed AB 2026, which extends the film industry's $100 million in annual tax credits to keep shooting in California. That ought to keep production companies coming to Kern County, which has enjoyed the trickle-down benefits of that particular arrangement. The tax break, which was extended by two years, could also serve as a model for incentives benefiting other industries. We've got to keep business in California, and this seems like a good way to try.

Among Brown's bad moves was his veto of Senate Bill 1476, which would have allowed a child to have more than two legally recognized parents if a court believes it's in the child's best interest. That may sound odd, but it reflects real-life changes in family structure -- stepparents, surrogate parents and custodial grandparents, among other possible scenarios. In situations where both legal parents are unable to care for their child, SB 1476 might have kept some kids out of foster care.

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