August 31, 2013

Our View: Update on local lawmakers’ proposals

With 12 days remaining for the Legislature to pass bills this session, we bring readers up to date on some of the proposals by our region’s representatives:

With 12 days remaining for the Legislature to pass bills this session, we bring readers up to date on some of the proposals by our region’s representatives:

• SB 591, by Sen. Anthony Cannella and Assemblyman Adam Gray, passed the Legislature and is headed to the governor’s desk. It would benefit electricity customers of the Merced Irrigation District – constituents of the two legislators – by reducing the state mandate for that district to get 33 percent of its energy from renewable resources. The Merced district will be able to count hydropower as meeting the renewable standard.

In previous years, Cannella tried to get a broader bill passed that also would have benefited the power customers of the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts as well. That didn’t fly, so he narrowed his focus to the Merced district.

• AB 151 by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen has passed both houses but must return to the Assembly for another vote before going to the governor. It would allow cities and counties to waive building and inspection permit fees for Americans with Disabilities Act type modifications to homes owned by veterans with service-related disabilities. With the country’s new conscience about assisting veterans, we would think this should sail through.
• Not surprisingly, the Legislature passed and Gov. Brown has already signed Senate Joint Resolution 5, by Sen. Tom Berryhill, which urges the federal government to pass legislation to expand Yosemite National Park. In question are 1,600 acres in Mariposa County, one a parcel owned by Pacific Forest Trust and the other owned by a private group of investors. Both have indicated their willingness to sell. Assemblyman Frank Bigelow is a co-author.
• Bigelow’s Assembly Bill 924, which would beef up the fine for livestock theft, passed the Assembly on a unanimous vote and also won support from the Senate Committee on Public Safety. It would establish a fine of up to $5,000 for anyone convicted of livestock theft and allow local officials to accurately track statistics on how many people have been convicted of stealing livestock. Proceeds collected from the fine would go to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Bureau of Livestock Identification (BLID) to help bring closure to current open cases and to help combat future livestock theft. AB 924 could be voted on by the full Senate as soon as Tuesday.
• The governor signed AB 1218, another bill by Gray, which clarifies that the California State Auditor has the express authority to do follow-up work on its audits and findings. This is one of those laws that should seem obvious, but we have to remember that government agencies, just like individuals, don’t like to be audited. Gray heads the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which works closely with the state auditor’s office.
• Sen. Cathleen Galgiani won approval from the Legislature and the governor for her SB 771, which authorizes the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to temporarily remove an inmate from prison or any other institution for the purpose of permitting the inmate to assist with the gathering of evidences related to crimes. This bill broadens the authority that Galgiani got in 2012 specifically so that convicted serial killer Wesley Shermantine could be released to help investigators search for more bodies.

Once the Legislature approves a bill, the governor has a month to sign or veto it. Sept. 13 is the final day for the Legislature to vote on bills this session.

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