By: Donald P. Wagner, Esq.

A recent client alert warned of impending changes in the California non-profit hospital world because of a new bill giving the Attorney General’s office greater powers than ever before to approve, deny, or modify mergers between health facilities. As Gilda Radner might have said, “Never mind.”

On September 30, the last day for the governor to act, and to the surprise of many, he vetoed the hospital bill. It was one of a long list of eleventh hour vetoes issued by Gov. Brown in the closing hours of this year’s legislative session that put a surprising end to hard fought and very high profile issues.

Often, the governor would explain the reason for his actions in a veto message accompanying his rejection of the bill. As for the hospital bill, the governor noted that the Attorney General’s office is currently revising administrative regulations with respect to non-profit hospital mergers. He said “[w]e should wait until these new regulations are implemented before deciding what adjustments, if any, are needed to improve the approval process for nonprofit hospital sales.”

In addition to the hospital bill, the governor vetoed a package of ethics reforms passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses in the wake of three separate scandals involving state Senators. He also rejected a significant re-write of the state’s franchise laws that critics said would have undermined the existing contractual balance between franchisors and franchisees. Those vetoes were unexpected by most observers.

For the second straight year, Gov. Brown rejected a bill changing the statute of limitations for sexual abuse against minors. He similarly turned down a change to the way criminal juries are instructed about errors involving a prosecutor’s handling of evidence. Finally, in the criminal justice field, he vetoed a bill providing tighter restrictions on the use of aerial drones by law enforcement.

A bill pushed hard by the public employee unions that would have affected the composition of the Los Angeles City Employee Relations Board and the Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission, giving those unions greater control over membership of those two bodies, met the governor’s veto pen. He explained this veto by noting that these changes would constitute “a significant override of local decision-making authority.”

Also vetoed was a measure proposed by the Orange County Board of Supervisors allowing counties to recover the costs of extraordinary search and rescue efforts in cases where certain illegal activity necessitated the rescue effort in the first place. The governor stated in his veto message that he believed this bill contained vague language which counties could exploit to expand the scope of their recoveries. He then “encouraged” the author (that would be me) “to craft a bill that strikes the right balance between appropriate due process and cost recovery for reckless misconduct.”

With the governor’s final flurry of bill signings and vetoes on September 30, the 2013-14 legislative session came to a close. The next session begins in January. Expect some version of many of the vetoed bills to come back, along with about two thousand other ideas that will find their way into the legislative hopper.