By Daniel Weintraub
Saying he was “inherently uncomfortable” about intruding into the private lives of Californians, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday vetoed legislation that would have banned smoking on state beaches and in common areas of state parks.
Schwarzenegger said local governments and the state parks system already had discretion to ban smoking under certain circumstances, and he said that was enough for him.
“I believe this bill is an improper intrusion of government into people’s lives,” Schwarzenegger wrote in his message vetoing Senate Bil 4. “I have supported laws in
the past that tackle the problem of smoking indoors and smoking in cars with children. But, by mandating in state law that people may not smoke outdoors in certain areas, this bill crosses an important threshold between state power and command and local decision-making. There is something inherently uncomfortable about the idea of the state encroaching in such a broad manner on the people of California.”
Schwarzenegger said the Parks and Recreation Department had banned smoking in some places where fire hazards exist, and local government have banned smoking in parks under their control.
He acknowledged that the bill also aimed to cut down on litter from discarded cigarette butts. He said, however, that because state and local jurisdictions are contiguous, the bill would do little good.
“The purpose of the bill is undermined if the difference between legal activity and illegal activity is literally a line in the sand. As we have seen, marine debris and litter know no boundaries,” the governor wrote. “I believe a more appropriate response is to increase the fines and penalties already in law for littering in our parks and on our beaches.”
Sen. Jenny Oropeza, the bill’s author, said she was disappointed with the veto. To get the bill through the Legislature she had already agreed to limit enforcement to what the Parks Department could do with current resources, and only after signs were posted to warn visitors about the new law.
“I’m sorry the governor did not agree with this widely supported effort to increase public awareness about the environmental threats carelessly tossed cigarettes are doing to our marine life and to the great outdoors,” she said. “In addition to the clear environmental, fire safety and health reasons sought to be addressed under SB 4, the governor’s veto is in stark contrast to what is already being done at more than 100 local cities and counties statewide.”