(Sept. 11) SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A year ago, in the waning days of California’s legislative season, Gov. Gray Davis found himself with several bills on his desk that would impose binding mediation in agricultural labor disputes.

As the bills lay on his desk, proponents of both farm workers and grower-shippers — two groups that until then Davis had courted simultaneously — pleaded their cases into opposite ears.

Davis ended up siding mainly the United Farm Workers. He signed a bill that would require grower-shippers and laborers who could not agree on a contract to enter into binding mediation.

The UFW and the bill’s sponsor, John Burton, D-San Francisco, argued that the bill was a compromise because it limited to 75 the number of contract negotiations that could be sent into binding mediation and because it established a sunset of five years for the law.

A year later, however, and under siege by a recall election, Davis has a new bill on his desk from Burton and backed by the UFW that takes away the compromises of last year’s law. Senate Bill 75 would repeal both the sunset clause and the negotiation limit.

And like the Burton bill that became the binding mediation law last year, SB75 was passed in a form different from the original text. The original bill had been introduced in January, but was gutted and rewritten in July to remove the sunset and the negotiation limit, said Mike Webb, government affairs counsel for Irvine-based Western Growers.

The California Assembly passed the bill in early September on basically a party-line vote. The governor had not indicated whether he would sign this bill.

“We’ll certainly urge him to veto it,” Webb said.