Legislators unveil raft of ’13 bills

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat /

Mother Lode lawmakers introduced a host of bills, on topics ranging from fire prevention and energy allocation to livestock theft and flexible work weeks, prior to a deadline Friday for new legislation in the California State Legislature this session.

Freshman Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O'Neals, proved active immediately, authoring four proposed bills and co-authoring 17 more, including legislation put forward with former Tuolumne and Calaveras county representative Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, and Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, who represented Calaveras County.

"This is a bipartisan issue," Bigelow said of his Assembly Bill 350, the Forest Fire Prevention Act of 2013, a measure that would allow cutting of trees of greater stump diameter during thinning projects.

"We're working to reduce the risks of forest fires throughout California and we're putting people back to work."

Bigelow also wrote AB 923, which seeks to authorize a joint powers authority in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties to offer electricity allocations from the New Melones Dam project for private use to encourage economic development.

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors was slated this morning to approve a letter to Bigelow and Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, in support of such legislation.

Bigelow's AB 925, the Taxpayer Protection Act of 2013, is an attempt to hold public officials accountable for up to three times the amount compensated when caught overpaying themselves or contractors, in response to a recent Department of Parks and Recreation scandal.

The rancher and former Madera County supervisor also created AB 924, the Livestock Theft Prevention Act, to increase fines and penalties for those convicted of stealing farm animals.

Among the co-authored legislation is AB 23, repealing the much-maligned rural fire fee; Olsen's AB 138, guaranteeing a fixed tuition rate for four years for California State University freshmen; and AB 65, which closes a loophole in state law that allowed a man impersonating a woman's boyfriend to avoid a rape charge.

Bigelow and Berryhill teamed up to co-sponsor legislation urging the U.S. Congress toreauthorize the federal Secure Rural Schools Act.

"The Secure Rural Schools Act fulfills an important commitment made by the federal government to rural counties," Bigelow said. "We must ensure that the federal government continues its commitment to rural California schools."

"Citizens in my district pay their taxes just like their urban counterparts yet are constantly underserved when it comes to the distribution of those dollars," Berryhill added. "Providing a mechanism for safer roads and some parity in education dollars seems like the minimum Congress could do for the communities that provide so many of the natural resources urban areas rely on."

Berryhill is also the author of Senate Bill 607, which would permit an individual employee, with the consent of his or her employer, to adopt an alternative workweek schedule providing for up to 10-hour workdays within a 40-hour workweek.

""Balancing family and work schedules is always a struggle. This bill would make it easier for workers and their employers to come up with a work schedule that meets everyone's needs," said Berryhill. "If you can get your job done in four 10-hour days, why not do it and take an extra day with your kids? This is something between you and your employer."

A half-dozen other proposals from Berryhill are:

• SB 787: The Sustainable Environmental Protection Act (California Environmental Quality Act Reform). SB 787 updates CEQA and "eliminates the practice of using subjective, rather than objective criteria in determining a project's suitability," according to a statement from Berryhill's office. "This bill is not an exemption to CEQA. It simply shifts limited environmental review procedures to a more objective standard where a bona fide alternative standard exists. CEQA would continue to mandate comprehensive environmental review, disclosure and informed public debate for all environmental impacts of any proposed development."

• SB 583: Fishing Licenses. Adds an additional license option for California anglers, creating a fishing license good for 12 consecutive months, regardless of purchase date.

• SB 504: A bill that seeks to conform, within the state Food and Agriculture Code, the provisions that clarify the authority of the commissioners to obtain judgments after levying civil penalties once respondents have failed to pay the fines.

• SB 757 seeks to update earlier work by Berryhill in the Assembly, who carried into law AB 844 to address the sale of metals.

• SB 732: Car sales tax. Exempts the value of a trade-in vehicle from sales tax if it is applied towards the purchase of a new vehicle, including a new motorcycle.

• SB 392: Waterfowl possession. This legislation addresses the issue of limits on game birds processed for immediate consumption in a private home.

The Union Democrat
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