Jan. 5, 2018: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NEWS GROUP - Wildfires, Aliso Canyon, crime, taxes are focus for LA County’s state lawmakers
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By Kevin Modesti | email@example.com | Daily News
A bill by a Los Angeles-area state senator would protect homeowners against losing their insurance after wildfires like the ones that tormented California in 2017.
That’s just one example of how issues commanding local state lawmakers’ attention in the new year seem to be ripped from the headlines, including the disastrous fires, the Aliso Canyon gas leak, worrisome crime trends and, inescapably, sexual harassment scandals.
We asked California Assembly and Senate members from L.A. County for their top priorities as they reconvened Wednesday in Sacramento. Here are the highlights.
Wildfires: The bill (Senate Bill 824) by Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from Bell Gardens, responds to complaints of insurance companies canceling or not renewing homeowner policies after fires. It would prohibit that practice, and require insurance companies to offer discounts to owners who take steps to make their homes safer from disasters. “Fires are still smoldering in Southern California, but the threat of losing your insurance is just starting for homeowners across the state,” Lara said in a statement.
Another wildfire-inspired bill (Assembly Bill 1765), by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, aims to help homeowners by waiving the state’s $75 fee for recording real-estate documents and notices. “The role of government is to assist in aiding Californians in recovering from such tragedies, not profit from them,” Quirk-Silva said.
Aliso Canyon: Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, who has urged the closure of the Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility until the causes of the massive leak in 2015-16 are understood, said he will be “conducting careful oversight over the PUC [Public Utilities Commission] to make sure ratepayers don’t foot the bill for Aliso.” Stern said he’ll introduce legislation if necessary.
On other environmental fronts, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, continues to push for the state to mandate that 100 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources by 2045. SB100 passed the Senate but was held up in the Assembly in September.
Crime: Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, wants to crack down on the theft of packages from porches, a holiday-season problem in the era of online shopping. His new bill would make organized package theft a felony.
Noting a rise in property crimes since the passage of Proposition 47, Stern wants to fill “gaps” in the sentence-reduction law, creating both more deterrents and more chances for mental-health and addiction treatment.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, will try again to enact bail reform via SB10, aiming to change a system whose critics say keeps people in jail because they can’t afford bail.
Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, will keep trying with SB439, which would prohibit the prosecution of people under age 12, protecting them from what the senator says are harmful effects of juvenile hall and the formal justice system.
Sexual harassment: A bill by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Burbank, and two others would extend — from one year to three years — the window for victims of sexual harassment to file claims with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. It’s one of several new bills in the Legislature to protect accusers and prevent cover-ups in the wake of the capitol sexual-misconduct cases. Allegations forced Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh to resign and Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, to take a leave of absence during an investigation.
Muratsuchi is working with Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, on a bill to help protect one kind of private-sector worker from sexual harassment. It would require hotels to provide “panic buttons” to maids and others who work alone in guest rooms.
Technology: De Leon and others are working on legislation to preserve net neutrality in California following the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal internet access safeguards.
Following the cyberattack on databases at Equifax, Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, is introducing legislation to make it easier for parents to protect their children’s credit reports by prohibiting credit agencies from charging fees for freezing reports. Irwin authored the 2016 bill that allowed parents to request freezes.
Education: Assembly members Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, and Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, are among the authors for AB1743, to fund high-quality vocational and career technical education programs in California schools.
Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada-Flintridge, is still working on SB328, to start school days later based on research he says shows health benefits for teenagers.
Taxes: De Leon, who is running for the U.S. Senate, has introduced a bill to allow Californians to get around the federal tax overhaul’s elimination of some deductions by making a charitable donation to the state in return for a tax credit.
Mendoza’s office said that while he is on paid leave, he can continue to interact with members of the Assembly, which is the next stop for SCA12, his proposed state constitutional amendment to expand large counties’ boards of supervisors. The controversial plan would add two members to L.A. County’s five-member board.
Legislators face a series of deadlines in January and February for bills to be introduced or for bills left over from 2017 to be advanced from committees or be approved by their houses where they originated.