Like the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, state lawmakers flocked back to Sacramento today, some to be sworn into their new terms, some to introduce bills, some perhaps just to keep their seats warm.
Among the Bay Area delegation’s legislative priorities: sangria, child care, party buses, public utilities, human trafficking, renewable energy and bullying (in no particular order).
State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – who was announced today as the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee – introduced a bill that would lift state law’s ban on sale of infused alcohol. Believe it or not, it’s illegal under existing law for a bar to mix up a big jar of sangria, or to infuse a big container of vodka or some other liquor, for later use and sale; such things can only be made to order. As a resurgence of the art of the cocktail has swept the state, many bar owners have ignored this rule – at their peril, it turned out, when the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control started handing out warnings and citations earlier this year. Leno estimates half of the Bay Area bars’s create and serve infusions, including limoncello, sangria, fruit flavored tequilas and many flavors of infused vodka, and his SB 32 is supported by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.
State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, was named Majority Leader – second in command, responsible for setting the Democratic agenda and the Senate’s floor operations – and introduced a bill to restore the $256 million for Stage 3 child care that Gov. Schwarzenegger line-item vetoed out of the state’s budget. The Stage 3 program provided child care services to more than 81,000 children and some 60,000 working families statewide; a court has put the cut on hold until Dec. 31, and the First 5 Commissions in many counties – including Alameda and Santa Clara – are footing the program’s bills until funding can be restored. “This money is vital for thousands of working parents, their children, and their caregivers who depend on these centers being open,” Corbett said in a news release.
On the Assembly side, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, co-authored the Assembly version of the bill to restore the vetoed child-care funds, and also introduced his own bill to crack down on operators of “party buses” that allow underage drinking aboard their vehicles. Prompted by the death of a 19-year-old from Burlingame, Hill’s AB 45 would require bus drivers – just as limousine drivers already are required – to make underage passengers sign statements that their consumption of alcohol is illegal, and then end the ride if any underage passengers imbibe. Fines starting at $2,000 for a first offense could be imposed by the Public Utilities Commission against companies that don’t comply, and further violations could result in license suspensions or revocations; party bus operators also could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Hill also introduced a bill, inspired by the Sept. 9 natural gas blast that killed eight people and flattened 27 San Bruno homes, that would prevent utilities from using ratepayer money to pay penalties or fees assessed by the Public Utilities Commission; require utilities that own or operate gas facilities to annually report to the PUC any pipeline problems; require utilities to create public education programs on their emergency response plans; require gas pipeline owners or operators to prioritize pipelines near seismically active areas for increased safety oversight, and by 2020 to create programs to upgrade their facilities for state-of-the-art inspection methods; require the PUC to set minimum standards to install automatic and/or remote shutoff valves; and require the PUC to ensure utility owners actually use rate increases to pay for the projects they propose, with any diversions publicly explained.
Lots more, after the jump…
Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, introduced AB 12, which would increase to $25,000 the fine against an adult convicted of paying for the sexual services of a minor and direct those fines to community agencies that help sexually exploited minors obtain education, counseling, and shelter. Swanson has authored several bills in recent years to combat human trafficking, and says he’ll soon introduce another to match state human trafficking law to federal law so state prosecutors can nail traffickers using mental coercion to hold children captive.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, introduced a bill to require private and public utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020, raising the renewable target from the current 20 percent while providing the flexibility necessary to meet the higher standard. Simitian says this would bring more green investment and jobs to the state, improve air quality, help address climate change, protect ratepayers from rate manipulation by diversifying our energy sources and help wean the state and nation from foreign oil. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed Simitian’s similar SB 14 in 2009, and his similar SB 722 didn’t pass by this year’s end-of-session deadline.
And Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill – sponsored by Superintendent of Public Instruction-elect Tom Torlakson – to require school employees to intervene when they see bullying, report it to the principal and notify parents of both the bully and the victim; the bill also would encourage school districts to create anti-bullying policies.