Assemblymember Chris Holden presents his transit pass bill; Asms. Richard Bloom and Eduardo Garcia listen at right. Image: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
A marathon hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee yesterday was a sign of looming deadlines in the California legislature. It was also an illustration of the strange and sometimes surreal world in which California’s laws are debated and created.
An hour before the hearing, a coalition of groups working on equity and transportation presented a package of bills at a press conference. At the time, the press was downstairs watching Governor Brown sign the minimum wage bill, but upstairs the room was packed with supporters, a group of whom had driven all the way from Fresno. Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), and Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) presented bills aimed at improving transportation options for people who need the most help, including creating a free transit pass program, increasing funding for the Active Transportation Program, and providing representation for disadvantaged communities on the California Transportation Commission.
Some of those transportation equity bills were among the 22 bills the Transportation Committee heard and discussed over the course its five-plus-hour hearing yesterday afternoon. The Transportation Committee meets next week to consider additional legislation. That promises to be another long hearing as the committee works through a large number of bills in a few short weeks.
Among the bills heard yesterday were attempts by Republicans to stop California’s high-speed rail project (CAHSR). These bring the total to eleven such efforts, according to Keith Dunn, a consultant for the Association for California High-Speed Trains, who testified at the hearing. These bills, like earlier similar bills, received few votes. They may well crop up again, but for now they are dead in the water.
This time around the anti-high-speed rail bills were:
- A.B. 1717: Since the High-Speed Rail Authority changed its plans and decided to build towards the Bay Area first, rather than to L.A., Assemblymember David Hadley (R-Torrance) proposed that CAHSR’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund money be taken away and given to other rail projects.
- A.B. 1768: High-speed rail is a waste of money and the bonds currently used for it should be used instead to repair roads and highways, said Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Plumas Lake).
- A.B. 2049: Assemblymember Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) wrote pretty much the same bill as Gallagher’s.
- A.B. 1866: Assemblymember Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) wants the high-speed rail bonds to be taken away and spent on water projects.
SPECIALIZED LICENSE PLATES
Three bills heard in yesterday’s meeting aimed to create a specialized license plate program to raise money for specific causes. Such bills have run into trouble in the past, with a moratorium on their proliferation causing hard feelings between legislators about pet causes. Committee Chair Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) warned that not only do the bills face an uphill battle, but their effectiveness as fundraising strategies is questionable: several past such attempts, he said, did not get enough applicants to start production of the particular specialized plate.
Nonetheless, the committee passed two of them: a “bicycle pathways” plate with proceeds going to the Active Transportation Program (A.B. 2303, Holden), and another that would support local food banks (A.B. 2131, Maienschein).