Breaking Down Local Legislators’ 2012 Work

When the calendar ticked over to 2013, a slew of bills authored last year by our local state senators and assembly members became actual law. Moving forward, those lawmakers have until late February to introduce bills, which means they’re in the middle of planning a legislative agenda for the coming year. We compiled a list of their just-enacted bills and called up those same representatives to ask them what they have planned for the upcoming year.

Jim Beall, D-San Jose, State Senate District 15
Jim Beall, a former San Jose councilman, county supervisor and assemblyman, began his inaugural term as a state senator last month, after a year when most of his proposed bills died. His senatorial district, made up of nearly 1 million residents, covers Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos and some of San Jose.

2012 Bills:
AB 57 — San Jose and Oakland each get a seat on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which gives the cities a voice in planning the Bay Area’s highways and public transit systems.
AB 1712 — Redefines how foster care gets extended after a child’s 18th birthday to prevent difficulties transitioning into adult independence.
AB 2388 — Requires the Santa Clara County Open-Space Authority to accept the lowest responsible bidder for contracts over $25,000 and would relax some bidding rules for contracts below $75,000.

• Chair of Budget Subcommittee II on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation
• Chair of Public Employment and Retirement
• Banking and Financial Institutions
• Budget and Fiscal Review
• Governance and Finance
• Health
• Transportation and Housing

Priorities for 2013:
One: Improving and repairing infrastructure, especially transportation, and providing a public benefit that also stimulates the economy by creating jobs. Two: Protecting education; supporting increased funding for education, especially higher education as outlined in the governor’s budget. Three: Making government efficient and ensuring Silicon Valley gets its fair share of tax revenues back.

Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, Assembly District 28
An assemblymember since 2008 and former trustee of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, Paul Fong authored polices that encouraged sustainability projects, like installing rooftop solar panels in poor neighborhoods and creating more transparency on college boards when planning tuition fee increases. His district covers Burbank, Cambrian Park, Campbell, Cupertino, Fruitdale, Lexington Hills, Monte Sereno, Los Gatos, Santa Clara, Saratoga and San Jose.

2012 bills:
AB 970 — Forces public higher education agencies to give the public more advance notice about raising fees. It also gives students a voice to weigh in on the rising costs of a college education and ensures that college boards put the entire discussion out in the open, especially about how revenue from those fee increases will be used.
AB 1413 — Updates the state elections code to make California’s “top two” primary election system more efficient.
AB 1656 — Lets the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority continue to manage wetlands and wildlife habitat along the coast.
AB 1662 — Gives school employees a chance to run for a board of education that doesn’t oversee the one they work for.
AB 1724 — Lets voters spend a little more than 10 minutes in the voting booth, if needed.
AB 1748 — Lifts $25,000 cap on short-term leases established two decades ago to give more freedom and higher revenues to community college districts.
AB 1776 — Promotes the Pacific leatherback sea turtle to California’s official state marine reptile. 
AB 2171 — Allows community colleges to deny admission to a student who has previously acted violently on a junior college campus.

• Chair of Elections
• Higher Education
• Utilities and Commerce
• Water, Parks and Wildlife
• Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy

Priorities for 2013:
“I am in the process of reviewing the numerous significant issues affecting our state,” Fong says. “Some of the issues that I am looking into are ensuring California’s election system is transparent and operates fairly for all people, that our higher education system remains the highest quality, reviewing environmental policies and that jobs are created and remain in our state.”

Nora Campos, D-San Jose, Assembly District 27
Nora Campos recently became Speaker pro Tempore of the Assembly, which means she’ll preside over its floor sessions to lead debates and discussions in the absence of the speaker. Her district covers half of San Jose, runs along the Coyote and Guadalupe rivers, spans from Highway 87 to the west and unincorporated county to the east.

2012 bills:
AB 403 — Appropriates $2 million for the Greater Monterey County Regional Water Management Group to address wastewater needs of poor communities in the Salinas Valley.
AB 455 — A new set of policies that give public employees and their employers a systematic way to resolve disputes over wages, hours and employment terms.
AB 501 — Allows members of public school auxiliary groups to join outside labor organizations just like public school employees are allowed to.
AB 551 — Increases the penalty for contractors on the public dime who keep inaccurate payroll records.
AB 746 — Defines cyberbullying as harassing posts on social media sites or through electronic transmission, like a text message.
AB 973 — Requires courthouses to post notice of closure or reduced hours online as well as on or around the building itself.

• Appropriations
• Budget
• Budget Subcommittee III on Resources and Transportation
• Business, Professions and Consumer Protections
• Education

Priorities for 2013:
“Public safety is a top priority for me this year,” Campos says. “With a near 30-percent reduction in San Jose’s police force and the spike in violent crime, I’m focusing on proposals to make our neighborhoods safer. I’m also continuing my work on online privacy, including Assembly Bill 25, to ensure that California’s constitutional right to privacy is extended to the social media profiles of all workers.”

Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, Assembly District 25
An attorney and sophomore assemblyman, Bob Wieckowski represents Milpitas, Newark, Fremont, Santa Clara and unincorporated east county. Last year, his focus included bills that prevent florists from fraudulently advertising to others that alleviate financial burdens on the poor.

2012 bills:
AB 1581 — Makes it illegal for flower shop owners to misrepresent their geographic location in advertising by citing a phone area code outside of their actual location.
AB 1775 — Updates wage garnishment laws to further restrict the amount of earnings liable for seizure.
AB 929 — Allows a debtor to increase the dollar amount of exemptions in a bankruptcy filling.
AB 1534 — Requires car sellers to place a sticker on the vehicle stating its reasonable market value to prevent predatory pricing.
AB 1620 — Reduces permitting on treatment requirements for hazardous waste deemed less toxic. It modifies the legal definition of hazardous waste treatment, so that places that store toxic waste are exempt from the same regulatory standards that apply to waste treatment facilities.
AB 1566 — The bill imposes stricter penalties for violations of above-ground petroleum storage tanks, which can leak, cause fire hazards and water pollution.
AB 1701 — Creates a uniform strategy to clean up underground petroleum tank leaks, which used to be handled by various local and regional agencies.

• Chair of Assembly Judiciary
• Health Insurance

Priorities for 2013:
“This year I will continue my focus on job creation, infrastructure improvements, assisting people who are struggling in this economy and also work to address some of the challenges facing our judicial system as chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” Wieckowski says.

“I will work to make sure there is appropriate public disclosure of fracking, so we know what is being pumped underground and how much water is used in the process,” he adds.

Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, formerly of State Senate District 11
After terming out from the State Senate, Joe Simitian came back to the Santa Clara County Supervisors this month. Because of his many years in local and regional politics, the outgoing senator came away from the last election with a landslide victory, garnering 84 percent of votes. He now represents the county’s District 5, which encompasses Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and parts of San Jose and Sunnyvale.

2012 Bills:
SB 972 — Gives public agencies the added responsibility to, among other things, send out a notice to anyone who put in a written request upon completing an environmental review as part of the California Environmental Quality Act.
SB 1191 — This protects rental tenants from sudden eviction by requiring property owners to notify them early on of a change in landlords. If the new landlord wants to evict the tenants after obtaining the property deed, they have to give a two-month notice.
SB 1303 — Since Jan. 1, police agencies have to install notices to let people know of a traffic enforcement cameras to give the public fair warning while encouraging them to comply. The idea here is to avoid the “Big Brother” feel of barely visible cameras at traffic intersections and to promote compliance.
SB 1329 — Allows private pharmacies and health-care organizations to participate in county programs that redistribute surplus prescription meds to low-income patients.
SB 1359 — Extends through 2018 a personal income tax deduction for money donated to the California Breast Cancer Research Fund. It otherwise would have sunset Jan. 1.
SB 1360 — Indefinitely continues rules that impose a $25,000 penalty on large boats that illegally release sewage into the state’s coastal waters.
SB 1509 — Postpones through 2020 the expiration of a rule that gives public school districts authority to enter into what it calls “design-build contracts,” which is to hire a contractor and architect at the same time during the beginning of a project. Hiring both simultaneously gives districts a chance to stay on the same page while saving the district time and money.
SB 1538 — Tells health-care providers to send a more detailed report to patients following a mammogram, one that includes information about breast tissue density. Studies have shown that denser breast tissue is up to six times more likely to develop cancer.

Priorities for 2013:
As for his future with the Board of Supervisors, Simitian sums up his focus to three main points: focus on delivering services; manage the budget responsibly and represent his district well.  “A lot of folks who rely on the county for help face a lot of challenges,” he says, “so it’s important to do your due diligence to deliver for the 1.8 million people we represent, given the limited funding we have.” Though he won’t serve on the healthcare committee this year, Simitian does plan to focus on ways to effectively deliver the federal Affordable Care Act to his constituents.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

One Comment

  1. First of all let me say that I’m extremely concerned about Jennifer Wadsworth’s workload. Suddenly, from out of nowhere she seems to be doing most of the heavy lifting around SJI. Let us pray that she is not relying upon performance enhancing drugs. If so, an asterisk may need to be appended to my remarks.

    This review of local legislators was amazingly concise and informative. It was also somewhat comforting. Having had severe misgivings about my own representative, Jim Beall, I’m at least a little bit encouraged to know that I could do worse. Nora Campos. Say no more.
    Anyway, thanks SJI and JW. This format was inspired and well researched. Keep up the good work.

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