Davis signs legislation for wheels and deals;

Published on

Sidewalks will be open to transporters & Companies must expand disclosures

Sacramento Bee

Gov. Gray Davis on Saturday approved measures to allow two-wheeled “human transporters” on California sidewalks and to expand disclosure requirements for companies doing business in California.

He also vetoed eight measures that would have enhanced public pensions for local government employees.

“Under different economic circumstances, I would be supportive of many of these bills, as they provide deserved benefits to workers who provide critical services to California’s citizens,” Davis said in a statement. “However, local government budgets are already under severe strain, which would be exacerbated if these bills become law at this time.”

Davis’ actions came two days before Monday’s midnight deadline for him to complete work on hundreds of measures lawmakers sent him this year.

His signature on SB 1918 is a major victory for the Segway Human Transporter, which can reach speeds up to 12.5 mph, turn in place, and travel about 17 miles on a single electric charge.

“This new and innovative means of individual transportation will allow people to move throughout urban environments without pollution, significant levels of noise or massive parking areas,” Davis said.

Skeptics fear the devices could pose a danger to slower-moving pedestrians, particularly on crowded city sidewalks.

Davis, in his signing message, said it is appropriate for local governments to decide whether to restrict the time, place and manner of a Segway’s use – or to ban the device altogether from sidewalks.

To give local governments time to consider such issues, the new state law will take effect next March rather than Jan. 1. The measure will expire in 2008 unless extended by lawmakers.

The Segway Co., founded by Dean Kamen, has spent about $100 million developing the two-wheeled human transporter, which looks somewhat like an old-fashioned push mower.

Segway Co. hopes eventually to sell the machines for about $3,000.

The U.S. Postal Service recently began experimenting with Segways. Interest also has been expressed by the National Park Service, General Electric and others, according to a legislative analysis.

SB 1918, by Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, requires that Segways be equipped with reflectors, a sound-emitting device, lamps for nighttime visibility, and a reliable braking system.

Davis also signed AB 55 by Assemblyman Kevin Shelley, D-San Francisco, part of a package of bills aimed at cracking down on corporate fraud.

The bill requires California corporations to annually disclose a variety of information, including the name of the independent auditors they use, any significant loan made to corporate directors at a preferential rate and the annual compensation of each director and the top five paid executives.

“Increasing the amount of information available should bolster investor confidence and help protect Californians from corporate fraud,” Davis said.

Corporations will be charged $5 each time they file the information, with half going to a restitution fund for victims and half to help make the information available on the state’s Web site.

Davis has yet to act on SB 783, which would create a confidential

whistle-blowers hotline and require executives to report financial fraud to the state attorney general or face fines up to $100,000.

Doug Heller, consumer advocate for the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights, said Shelley’s disclosure bill is not enough. “California needs more than to learn about corporate wrongdoing after the fact,” Heller said. “We need an early-warning system to preempt financial fraud from ripping us off in the first place.”


The Bee’s Jim Sanders can be reached at (916) 326-5538 or

[email protected].

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