THE CALIFORNIA TRANSITION
Incoming governor's mantra: 'Action'

Schwarzenegger to address host of hot-button issues

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Georgia (default)
Verdana
Times New Roman
Arial
Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger strolls through the ... Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger shakes hands as he arriv... Assemblyman Herb Wesson from Culver City will become spea...

(10-23) 04:00 PDT Sacramento -- Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger told lawmakers Wednesday that he would call a special session of the Legislature next month to deal with a host of issues, from the state deficit to prohibiting driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, as he marched into the Capitol for the first time since his election.

"Action, action, action, action,'' Schwarzenegger said during a meeting with top legislative leaders, pausing to talk with reporters as he zigzagged through the Capitol. "That's what people voted me into this office for. They wanted a governor that is filled with action -- that performs and represents the people.''

During the frenetic day, orchestrated to show Schwarzenegger engaging in a friendly manner with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the governor- elect announced his new chief of staff, HMO executive Patricia Clarey, and asked the Democratic-controlled Legislature to begin reversing a few of its past decisions and start tackling government reforms that Schwarzenegger wants.

Despite the chumminess with lawmakers Wednesday, it was immediately clear that Schwarzenegger and Senate leader John Burton, D-San Francisco, as well as other powerful Democrats, will clash on some of the policy issues Schwarzenegger wants to rush to the table on the day after being sworn in.

Most notably will be the issue of allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a California driver's licenses, made possible by a new law recently signed by departing Gov. Gray Davis. When asked whether he would accept a compromise on the law, perhaps by requiring increased security measures to help track potential terrorists, Schwarzenegger said plainly in a low voice: "It will be repealed."

Burton, sitting next to him, said he would consult with the bill's author,

but added: "Do I think it should be repealed? I think it's much ado about nothing. . . . I don't believe undocumented people would be blowing up buildings. That's just my point of view."

Burton nevertheless said the two men joked and talked about their favorite Austrian foods and mutual Hollywood friends. Burton gave Schwarzenegger a gift during their 20-minute meeting - a cigarette lighter in the shape of a middle finger flipping the bird.

Later, during a private meeting with Republican lawmakers at the California Chamber of Commerce, GOP legislators said Schwarzenegger told them he would call for one or more special sessions for Nov. 18 to deal with lingering issues that the state has yet to resolve. Pending issues include workers' compensation reform, driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, open- government reforms, the continuing budget crisis and the tripling of the car tax, which he wants to roll back.

All the issues carry their own problems with Democrats. Schwarzenegger's most pressing task may be the looming possibility that a court will throw out a $10.7 billion bond issued to balance this year's budget - forcing the state into an immediate fiscal crisis. Schwarzenegger may ask the Legislature to place a measure on the March ballot approving new bond spending, in order to satisfy a potential court challenge.

Afternoon of meetings

In the course of an afternoon Wednesday, Schwarzenegger met privately with Burton, Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, D-Los Angeles, Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga (San Bernardino County) and incoming Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, as well as the full Republican caucus. He is scheduled to meet Davis this morning to get a tour of his new office.

Schwarzenegger also attended meetings with state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George, and ate dinner with Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who recently admitted he had voted for Schwarzenegger. The governor- elect is expected to meet today with the other constitutional officers, all Democrats.

"This is sort of the first step in creating relationships,'' Schwarzenegger said, "and letting them know I am here to work together and that we all have to work for the people of California."

Just getting Schwarzenegger into the Capitol was a major undertaking. Two- dozen highway patrol officers guarded the West entrance, roping off a special area for Schwarzenegger's SUVs to park on the front porch and for about 200 onlookers who were waiting behind ropes. Guards practiced opening the huge front doors, which were briefly stuck closed, then left them open for Schwarzenegger to walk through the arched threshold alone.

When he entered the rotunda, tourists and state workers lined up next to a statute of Queen Isabella erupted into cheers. Some had been waiting more than an hour. He greeted a few and then went upstairs for his first meeting, with Brulte.

"I think the Legislature needs to understand that this is a governor who has the unique ability to go over our heads and talk directly with voters,'' Brulte said after the meeting. "This election and what occurred with the recall should be a big wake-up call to both political parties here in the Capitol that business as usual is not acceptable.''

Wesson said if Schwarzenegger calls a special session, the Assembly would not boycott. He said that they agreed on the need to draw on additional federal funds to prop up the state budget, but that he advised Schwarzenegger "that there are a significant number of people who are dependent upon us, and as we move forward in this process, they are in fact protected.'' By that, Wesson said, he meant protecting services for the poor.

"I gave him some personal advice. I've been in this business since I was 26 years old. He just got here,'' said Wesson, who is 51. "It was just about not surrounding himself with "yes" people. You got to have people who will debate what they believe and at the end of the day he was elected and they were selected, and he makes the call.''

Measure of the man

Wesson was waiting for Schwarzenegger outside his office later, and when the governor-elect arrived, the speaker pulled out a tailor's tape measure and said, "We're going to settle this once and for all and find out how tall he is. '' Schwarzenegger just smiled, and they walked into Wesson's office. Wesson, who is 5-foot 5 , said Schwarzenegger later declined to be measured.

As Schwarzenegger wandered the Capitol for roughly three hours, the hallways looked vaguely like a "Benny Hill'' skit, with a dozen reporters rushing up and down stairs behind him, scurrying up against rope lines just to catch a glimpse of the new governor disappearing into another office.

When he emerged, it would prompt another mad dash downstairs while Schwarzenegger, with his halting gait and a frozen grin, walked alone through the hallways followed by several aides and a crush of reporters. He paused briefly once to give a thumbs-up under the rotunda for two photographers, and once to answer a few questions.

The critical meetings of the day were with Wesson and Burton, the Democratic leaders. Their relationships will be the key test of whether Schwarzenegger can get his proposals through the Legislature or if the new governor has to go over their heads with ballot initiatives. Burton said Schwarzenegger will be "on a personal level, easy to work with and on a policy level, we'll have to wait and see.''

"I know where he stands on issues and he knows where I stand on issues, but the key thing is that we can work together,'' Schwarzenegger told reporters during one meeting. "Of course, we have a lot of things in common. We have a lot of friends in common - Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold . . . "

Burton interjected: "We both like schnitzel and kartoffeln salat (potato salad). ''

"Oh yeah,'' Schwarzenegger said. "We both go to Austria periodically and like good Wiener schnitzel. There are things we can build on."

Chronicle staff writer Christian Berthelsen contributed to this report.

E-mail the writer at bsalladay@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Comments

Weatherford BMW Top Autos

From
Weatherford BMW

Ford

2003 Expedition

$17,900

Honda

2002 Civic

$11,900

BMW

2005 Z4

$26,777

BMW

2003 Z4

$21,777

BMW

2005 Z4

$31,900

BMW

2005 Z4

$26,777

BMW

2004 Z4

$27,900

BMW

1996 3 Series

$9,900

BMW

2007 X5

$53,777

BMW

2006 X5

$32,777

BMW

2004 X5

$27,777

BMW

2006 3 Series

$37,777

BMW

2004 6 Series

$39,777

BMW

2007 7 Series

$59,777

BMW

2008 5 Series

$59,777

Advertisers