Bill would provide funds for ‘mystery goo’ cleanups

A new bill would provide state funding to clean up incidents like the “mystery goo” in the San Francisco Bay that recently killed more than 200 birds.

EAST BAY BIRD RESCUEState Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said SB 718 – jointly authored by state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley – fixes a gap in existing law by creating a funding mechanism for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation during such rare events.

“California has a sophisticated oil spill response system, but in the unique event when a pollutant is unidentified, there is no clear funding mechanism for the cleanup,” Leno said in a news release. “This legislation clarifies that the state’s top priority during a spill of any kind is to immediately protect waterways and wildlife, regardless of what type of substance caused the problem.”

The bill authorizes the Office of Spill Prevention and Response to borrow up to $500,000 from the state’s oil spill prevention fund for the rehabilitation and rescue of wildlife in spill events where the substance is non-petroleum based. The bill gives the state clear authority to quickly respond to these events; once the responsible parties for the spills are found, they would be required to reimburse the state for the costs of cleanup, including accrued interest.

The bill is co-sponsored by San Francisco Baykeeper and Audubon California.

“When a spill happens, it is essential that first responders can act quickly to protect sensitive shorelines and species,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, San Francisco Baykeeper’s interim executive director. “This bill will help ensure that state, local and nonprofit responders are working in concert — and with adequate resources — to prevent harm to San Francisco Bay and all of California’s waters.”

An unidentified sticky synthetic goo first appeared in the Bay in mid-January and coated hundreds of birds, many of which died because they could not maintain their body heat. Others were rehabilitated and released back into the wild by volunteers from local non-profit organizations. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated the incident, but no significant state resources were available to support non-governmental agencies in their cleanup, rescue and rehabilitation efforts. The International Bird Rescue center, a publicly supported non-profit group, spent about $150,000 on animal care.

No word on whether future mystery-goo cleanups would involve the Ghostbusters:


Barbara Boxer praises BART’s plan to ban e-cigs

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is thanking BART for its plan to ban use of e-cigarettes on trains and in stations.

Barbara Boxer“Research has raised major concerns about secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapor,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Bay Area Rapid Transit Board President Thomas Blalock. “This is particularly relevant in small, enclosed spaces such as trains and stations, leading the World Health Organization to recommend that steps be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors in public and work places.”

The BART Board of Directors will hold a final vote to approve the ban on Feb. 12. Boxer last June wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking him to ban the use of such devices on airplanes.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill this week that would ban use of e-cigarettes in all public spaces.

For the full text of Boxer’s letter to BART, read after the jump…
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Brown signs same-sex marriage bill into law

With a stroke of Gov. Jerry Brown’s pen Monday morning, California did away with its last statutory barriers to same-sex marriage.

Brown signed SB 1306 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which replaces references to “husband and wife” with gender-neutral language, bringing state statutes into line with the state and U.S. Supreme Court rulings recognizing marriage rights for same-sex couples. The bill officially takes effect Jan. 1.

“This legislation removes outdated and biased language from state codes and recognizes all married spouses equally, regardless of their gender,” Leno said in a news release.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 let stand California’s ruling that Proposition 8 of 2008 – which wrote a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution – was unconstitutional. By repealing Proposition 8, that ruling essentially restored the California Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling that had cleared the way for same-sex marriages; weddings resumed almost immediately.

Leno’s bill was cosponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris, Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Although there is no question that same-sex couples can marry in California, the discriminatory language that remains on the statutory books creates confusion about the rights of same-sex couples,” NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said in Leno’s news release. “This law makes it clear to everyone that same-sex couples can marry and that all spouses have the exact same rights and responsibilities under the law, regardless of gender.”


Leno to offer bill requiring cell ‘kill switches’

A Bay Area lawmaker will offer a bill requiring cell-phone manufacturers to include a “kill switch” that can remotely render a phone inoperable after it has been stolen.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is working on the legislation with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who has been crusading for kill switches for a while in order to combat a plague of cell-phone robberies and thefts. Leno said Thursday he intends to introduce the bill at the start of the 2014 legislative session next month.

Mark Leno“One of the top catalysts for street crime in many California cities is smartphone theft, and these crimes are becoming increasingly violent,” he said in a news release. “We cannot continue to ignore our ability to utilize existing technology to stop cell phone thieves in their tracks. It is time to act on this serious public safety threat to our communities.”

Cell phone service providers are resisting such requirements, saying kill switches both could present opportunities for hacking and would create a huge customer-service burden.

The Federal Communications Commission reports cell phone thefts account for 30 to 40 percent of all robberies nationwide; more than half of all robberies in San Francisco involve the theft of a mobile device, and cell phone thefts in Los Angeles are up almost 12 percent in the last year. These crimes cost U.S. consumers more than $30 billion in 2012, even though technology already exists that can render stolen devices useless.

“I appreciate the efforts that many of the manufacturers are making, but the deadline we agreed upon is rapidly approaching and most do not have a technological solution in place,” Gascón said in Leno’s news release. “Californians continue to be victimized at an alarming rate, and this legislation will compel the industry to make the safety of their customers a priority.”


Medical-marijuana bill revived via gut-and-amend

A marijuana-regulation bill that was defeated on the Assembly floor in May has returned, revived through a gut-and-amend tactic in the final week of the Legislature’s session.

AB 604 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, which used to deal with eyewitness identifications in criminal investigations, is now the vehicle for Ammiano’s Medical Cannabis Regulation and Control Act, formerly AB 473. It’s coauthored by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

The bill would require the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to set up a division to monitor production, transportation and sales of medical marijuana, and would grandfather in medical marijuana businesses already operating legally under city or county laws.

“Not only are patients in California barraged by virtually daily closures of dispensaries due to aggressive attacks by the Justice Department, but the patchwork system of local bans and regulations in the state leaves hundreds of thousands of patients without safe access to medical marijuana,” said Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access. “It’s time for state legislators to roll up their sleeves and finish the job of implementing California’s medical marijuana law.”

Duncan’s group would prefer that medical marijuana be regulated by the Department of Public Health, but said it’s more important to put some sort of state regulatory structure in place so that cities and counties can’t keep imposing bans. ASA and the Sacramento chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are staging a lobbying blitz today to build support for the legislation.

California representatives of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition support the bill, too.

“While law enforcement special interest groups have derailed bills like this before, this is something police on the ground want,” retired lieutenant commander Diane Goldstein said in a news release. “Just like anyone else, they try to do their jobs as professionally and effectively as possible. But right now, the lack of clear regulations on the medical marijuana industry means they can’t do that because they don’t know what’s legal and what isn’t.”


Gun-control bills tailored for SF, Oakland advance

The Legislature on Friday sent two city-specific gun control measures – both for the Bay Area – to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The state Senate passed AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which would give Oakland special permission to pass and enforce gun registration and licensing ordinances that are stricter than state law.

Bonta on Friday noted FBI statistics show Oakland last year had California’s highest violent-crime level, and the nation’s third highest. The city had more than 4,000 firearm-related crimes and 131 homicides in 2012; it has had 65 deaths by firearm so far in 2013.

“No one can deny that Oakland is suffering,” he said in a news release, adding his bill “is a smart and sensible bill that empowers Oakland and provides local control in addressing gun violence—where it is needed most.”

Bonta was appointed chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay this year, and he and fellow committee member Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will hold a news conference Monday morning in Oakland to urge Brown to sign this and other bills.

Meanwhile, the Assembly on Friday passed SB 475 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which would require permission from the San Francisco and San Mateo County boards of supervisors in order for gun shows to be held at the Cow Palace – in effect, banning any future gun shows there.

“For years, residents, community organizations and elected leaders from the neighborhoods surrounding the Cow Palace have asked to have a voice in the decision to hold gun shows in their backyards, but they have been ignored,” Leno said in a news release Friday. “Meanwhile, firearms related crimes persist in these communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent families who reside in the surrounding area. This proposal gives local communities a say in determining whether they want gun shows in their neighborhoods, especially when they live in daily fear of gun violence.”

The Cow Palace straddles the county line, and is operated by the state Department of Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions. Leno twice before has authored bills to impose flat-out bans on gun and ammunition sales at the Cow Palace: AB 2948 of 2008 failed on the Senate floor, and SB 585 of 2009 was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.