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Governor OKs troop relief, vetoes forest bill

September 16

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger approved an eight-bill financial relief package for California's National Guard and military families Thursday, authorizing new tax breaks, child care benefits and a $10,000 payment to families of guard members and military reservists killed in the line of duty.

Families of those killed after March 1, 2003, would receive the state's $10,000 along with a $12,000 federal death benefit and $5,000 in burial costs if the death occurred while on federal duty. That includes the war in Iraq.

Schwarzenegger vetoed a Sierra Club-sponsored bill Thursday to shift the management mission of state forests away from producing "maximum sustainable timber production."

The bill proposed a new emphasis on recreation, restoration and public enjoyment, but the governor, in a veto message, said the state "has continually strived to make progress toward diversifying" its forest management. The bill also aimed to ban old-growth timber harvesting in parts of the 50,000-acre Jackson State Forest in Mendocino County.

Schwarzenegger likewise vetoed environmentalist-supported bills to make state office and school buildings exceed current standards for energy efficiency.

The eight bills were among 15 signed by the governor Thursday, including one steering $750,000 in extra funds to reduce the state's mosquito population and better coordinate control efforts between state and local authorities. The state has recorded 15 deaths this year from West Nile virus, nearly all in Southern California.

The governor also approved tougher legislation on repeat drunken drivers, extending from seven to 10 years the time in which a second offense draws a county jail sentence up to 90 days and a fine up to $1,000. Now, a repeat conviction more than seven years after the first is treated as a first offense.

In rejecting lawmakers' proposal to make new state office and school buildings exceed current standards for energy efficiency, Schwarzenegger cited a working group he already has appointed on "green buildings."

The bill required that all state and school buildings constructed and retrofitted after July 1, 2007, must exceed minimum energy-efficiency standards set by the California Building Code and incorporate new "green building" standards, such as natural cooling, high performance windows and recycled building products.