01/23/2004 1:00AM

Takeout bill is back, with changes


ARCADIA, Calif. - Hours after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation on Thursday that would have increased the takeout on exotic wagers for races in California to help cover the soaring costs of workers' compensation policies for horsemen, a similar bill was reintroduced.

Assemblyman Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood), sponsor of the original bill, submitted the legislation again, this time with a sunset clause that would eliminate the added takeout in 2010.

"Vetoing this bill is not in the best interest of California," Horton said Friday. "It's a political faux pas."

The bill would raise the takeout on all bets other than win, place, or show from 20.18 to 20.68 percent. The resulting revenue, estimated at $10 million, would be used to help trainers cover the high cost of mandatory workers' compensation policies.

The governor has submitted his own plan for reforming the state's workers' compensation program and has asked the Assembly to reply by March 1. Still, Schwarzenegger's veto came as a surprise to Horton.

"I know the majority of the policy experts were supportive, but his political advisers encouraged him to veto the bill," Horton said. "Their logic is to not have partial solutions out there that might weaken his ability to come up with comprehensive workers' compensation reform. What they don't understand is this bill will be needed irrespective of the ultimate workers' comp solutions that will come about."

In his one-page veto message to the Assembly, Schwarzenegger said that several issues need to be addressed in future legislation, including "the governance of the fund, methods of distribution of the funds, and the lack of further review of the necessity of the additional takeout in the future."

It is not clear whether the resubmitted legislation fully addresses Schwarzenegger's concerns, or whether additional changes will be made once hearings begin.

Schwarzenegger criticized the way the bill was rushed through the Assembly last summer, with only one committee hearing. "We owe the people of California as much sunshine on the process as possible," he said.

Schwarzenegger said that he agreed "with the concept in this bill" but that the "entire workers' compensation system needs to be reformed in a comprehensive manner."

The new bill (AB 1838) is going through a customary 30-day public comment period and could be sent back to the governor by mid-March.

Horton expressed frustration that Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill instead of simply asking for changes.

"If these were legitimate concerns, there are other methods," he said. "We could have amended the bill and sent it back to the governor."