Assembly Requires University Compensations Be Public

State trustees and regents at California's public universities would be required to meet in open session when discussing executive compensation under legislation approved Tuesday by the state Assembly.

The bill by State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was approved 69-0 in the wake of revelations last year that top administrators at the University of California were secretly given millions in perks in bonuses and housing allowances.

It was among more than 180 bills passed Tuesday by the Assembly
and Senate in the final weeks of the session.

Lawmakers adopted new rules to extend voter registration for new citizens, restrictions on lead bullets in areas where condors live and a ban on a common chemical found in plastic baby toys and products.

The university compensation bill would require that all executive compensation packages at the University of California and the California State University be voted on in an open session of a subcommittee and the full governing board.

The public could also comment on compensation packages.

University compensation practices first came under scrutiny when the San Francisco Chronicle reported last year that CSU, the nation's largest four-year public university system with more than 400,000 students, had paid as much as $4 million over 10 years to departing executives.

They awarded the perks in a period when student fees increased significantly to offset budget cuts.

Subsequent audits of executive compensation practices found scores of abuses over the years.

One audit found 113 cases where senior managers at CSU were given pay or benefits beyond those established in university policies.

Last month, UC President Robert C. Dynes announced plans to step down, although he has defended salary compensation packages as a way to keep the UC system competitive.

The bill now goes to the Senate for final approval.

In other business, lawmakers adopted the following bills: VOTER REGISTRATION - Immigrants who become U.S. citizens after California's 15-day registration deadline could register to vote until the polls close on election day under legislation approved by the state Assembly.

Supporters said the bill by Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, would ensure that California's newest citizens be allowed to vote.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, said the bill sends a "sick and twisted message" because it would require new citizens to show photo identification to vote, which is not required of other voters who meet the registration deadline.

A 43-28 vote sent the bill back to the Senate for final approval.

JAIL INFORMANTS - The Assembly passed legislation that would bar a court from convicting a person based on uncorroborated testimony of an informant who is in prison or police custody.

Supporters said such testimony is often unreliable, noting that false informant information is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in California.

Critics have said the bill would make it more difficult to prosecute offenders and take away the ability of judges and juries to assess the credibility of witnesses.

The measure passed on its third try by a 42-31 vote.

It now goes to the Senate for final approval.

APARTMENT RECYCLING - Apartments with more than five units would
have to provide renters a place to recycle their plastic bottles, aluminum cans and newspapers under legislation approved by the state Assembly.

Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, said his bill would make recycling easier for the more than 7.1 million Californians who live in apartments.

Unlike many homeowners, most apartment dwellers cannot put their recycling waste on the street curb.

Assemblywoman Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, said local governments should set local recycling ordinances.

A 47-24 vote sent the bill to the governor.

He vetoed similar legislation last year, describing it as an "overly prescriptive" measure that would create significant compliance costs.

CONDORS-BULLETS - Hunters would be barred from using lead-based
ammunition in areas inhabited by California condors under a bill by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, that was approved by the
Senate.

Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, said there is increasing evidence that the rare, protected birds are being poisoned by lead bullets they ingest when they eat other animals shot by hunters.

Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula, predicted that the bill would hurt the state's economy by discouraging people from spending money on hunting.

He also said it would create a bigger health risk for condors by exposing them to copper bullets.

"This may be well-intentioned but it is sorely misguided," he said.

A 23-15 vote sent the bill back to the Assembly for a vote on Senate amendments.

TOXIC TOYS - The Senate also approved a bill by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, that would bar the use of phthalates in toys and children's products designed for kids under age three.

Phthalates are a group of compounds that are used to make plastic more flexible. They've been linked to testicular injuries, liver cancer and other forms of liver problems.

A 21-18 vote sent the measure to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.


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