(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
"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
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
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but added: "Do I think it should be repealed?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
"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,
"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
"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 email@example.com.