California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 4.34.24 PMHere is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

Today was the last day to amend bills for this legislative session. Any bill that doesn’t get passed by midnight next Sunday, August 31, will be officially dead.

Among the flurry of votes, the following bills passed out of both the Assembly and the Senate and are now waiting for the governor to sign—or veto:

Vehicle registration surcharge for bike paths and trails: SB 1183 from Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) would allow local jurisdictions–cities, park districts–to place initiatives on the ballot to fund bike paths and trails with a local vehicle registration surcharge. Because this fits Brown’s ideals about fiscal responsibility—that is, the surcharge cannot be imposed unless 2/3 of voters approve—let’s say this one is likely to be signed.

Bike racks on buses: AB 2707, from Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), would allow newer, longer buses to carry bike racks that fit three bikes. Right now buses are generally restricted to two-bike racks, except in a few places that argued for an exception. This would make the rules consistent statewide.

Traffic violation fines in school zones: S.B. 1151, from Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres). Despite unanimous passage in both houses and all the committees it passed through, advocates are worried that Brown may decline to sign this bill because it uses fines to generate revenue. In this case the revenue would have been used for active transportation projects.

The bill originally called for fines to be doubled, to match fines in construction zones. However, the original language would have required new signage and legislators balked at burdening locals with those costs. Now, the bill merely adds a mandatory $35 increase to any other fines a scofflaw motorist would incur for unsafe driving in a school zone.

Meanwhile the following bills passed the Senate and returned to the Assembly for approval of Senate amendments:

Higher fines for hit-and-run convictions: A.B. 1532 from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles).

Yellow Alert on hit-and-run perpetrators: A.B. 47, also from Gatto.

Vulnerable users defined: A.B. 2398, from Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). This bill was amended in committee to lower the fine for violations against vulnerable users from $1000 to $300. This is still over three times the current fine which is either $70 or $95 pending the severity of the crash.

Active Transportation Program list approved: At its monthly meeting, the California Transportation Commission approved the list of projects its staff recommended to receive funding—a total of 145 projects out of 771 submitted applications. Can you say: woefully underfunded?

Cap-and-Trade Auctions on Track: On Monday, the California Air Resources Board held a successful quarterly cap-and-trade auction, selling out all the available pollution credits at a price slightly above the minimum set by the board. The list of bidders included plenty of fuel companies, who will be subject to the cap come January—unless legislative attempts to delay that, such as A.B. 69 from Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno), gain some traction in the next week. Perea’s bill is awaiting its turn to be heard on the Senate floor.

Closing hit-and-run loopholes: The L.A. City Attorney and the L.A. Times endorsed A.B. 2673 from Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), which would end the use of civil compromises to remove criminal charges for hit-and-run crimes.