Editorial: Many bills should die; here’s a start

California has dozens, scores, maybe even hundreds of problems.

But our great state doesn’t have 1,000 problems year in and year out that cry out for additions to already voluminous code books. In the spirit of making our collective lives a little less complicated, we suggest that Gov. Jerry Brown take it upon himself to strike a blow for less, not more, by vetoing the worst of the hundreds of bills on his desk.

Here’s where he should start:

Sen. Alex Padilla, a Los Angeles Democrat who ought to know better, carried Senate Bill 556, which we call the scarlet letter bill. It is a labor-backed clunker that has been introduced multiple times, has failed, and then rises again.

SB 556, like its predecessors, would require contractors to carry some sort of logo making clear on their uniforms that they work for private firms.

The League of Cities sees it as a ploy to stop government from contracting out, as do we. Civil service is important, but cities and counties ought to be able to save money in some circumstances by hiring outside contractors.

SB 792, a sop to painters’ unions, is another bill by Padilla, who, as we said, should know better. As if by magic, the bill appeared on Aug. 30, the last day of the legislative session.

The bill would ensure painters union members are the only ones who could apply toxic coatings to steel and concrete in public works projects such as those that would be funded by the $7.5 billion water bond, if voters approve it on Nov. 4.

Assemblyman John A. Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat who co-authored Padilla’s bill, had a virtually identical measure, AB 1415. It stalled on Aug. 29, which, coincidentally, was the day that a Bee editorial singled it out as wrong-headed.

As we noted then, the bill had noble origins. When it was introduced, the bill sought to increase government transparency. Even more ironic, Padilla is running for secretary of state, an office that fundamentally is devoted to transparency. Yes, legislators do play games.

Then there is the Martins Beach bill, which attracted lots of attention during the legislative session. In May, this very page editorialized favorably about SB 968 by Sen. Jerry Hill, a Peninsula Democrat. Hill introduced SB 968 after an environmentalist group sued to force the owner, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, to grant access to the beach.

By August, the bill had been watered down to a weak brew. Stripped from the bill are sentences that might have defined the issue, like this one: “Generations of families have enjoyed public access to Martins Beach, which has contributed to the local economy.” But the bill no longer directs the State Lands Commission to buy access to the beach. It merely suggests the commission negotiate with the owner.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the commission, told The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board that the commission will do exactly that, whether the bill is signed or not.

Beach access is the birthright. Khosla should allow beach-goers to cross his property to reach Martins Beach. But like many bills, SB 651 does less than it implies. The Public Resources Code would survive fine without Section 6213.5.

There are many bills on Brown’s desk that ought die. But the governor has to start somewhere.