WatchSonoma Watch

North Coast lawmakers behind 43 new laws



California’s troubled state parks system, shaky finances and problems with violence at mental health facilities were areas of focus this year for the North

Noreen Evans (PD FILE)

Coast’s legislative delegation.

The lawmakers — Assemblymen Jared Huffman, Wes Chesbro and Michael Allen and state Sens. Noreen Evans and Mark Leno — succeeded in getting 43 bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Highlights included the California State Parks Stewardship Act by Huffman, D-San Rafael, and a pair of bills by Allen, D-Santa Rosa, that are aimed at curbing violence at state mental health facilities and protecting patients and staff.

The lawmakers earned high marks from political observers for the number of bills they were able to push through the Legislature and get signed into law.

Leno, a San Francisco Democrat whose district includes southern Sonoma County, led the pack with 13 bills signed into law, followed by Chesbro and Allen, each with 11. Huffman had six, followed by Evans with two.

“They are a very active bunch. They also have a wealth of experience that they bring in a term-limited Legislature,” said David McCuan, a political scientist at Sonoma State University.

The two bills Evans got enacted into law this year relate to unemployment benefits for laid-off teachers and electronically-stored evidence in civil court cases.

Evans did not return several messages seeking comment this week. Her staff said she was traveling in Russia and France on state business.

In a statement issued Wednesday by her staff, Evans said she was “instrumental in the development and passage of several bills important to my district.”

She cited as examples her work on committees that drafted a homeowner mortgage bill of rights and rescued home-to-school transportation for schoolchildren. She also took credit for drafting budget bills that will keep parks open for the next two years and help fund deferred maintenance projects.

Evans served two terms in the Assembly before being elected to the Senate. She also has applied to become a state appellate court justice.

McCuan said Evans’ record for 2012 suggests that she is still “looking for her role” in the Senate.

Allen also did not return several messages this week seeking comment.

Among Allen’s bills that earned Brown’s approval this year were one that makes breast-feeding a protected right in the workplace and others that exempt commercial balloon operators from being regulated by the Public Utilities Commission and boost the number of liquor licenses in Marin County.

The governor vetoed five of Allen’s bills, the most among North Coast lawmakers this year. They included a bill that would have barred employers from not offering jobs to people simply because they were out of work when they applied for the position, one that would have required restaurants with playgrounds to have the same standards of cleanliness for the equipment as in other areas of the establishment and another that would have provided financial assistance to farmers who transition to organic growing standards.

The governor rejected two of Leno’s bills, including one that would have provided more protections from the government tracking people without a warrant based on information from an electronic device such as a cellphone.

Brown vetoed one of Huffman’s bills that would have given doctors more authority over prescribing pain medication.

The lawmakers also had numerous bills that never made it to the governor’s desk and either died in committee, were voted down in the Legislature or were withdrawn.

One of Allen’s main bills this year that would have given farm-workers the right to overtime pay after they work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours a week was rejected by the Assembly.

Barbara O’Connor, emeritus professor of communications and director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at CSU Sacramento, said another way to judge how lawmakers are faring is if they are in positions of leadership.

Allen, who is in his first term in office, is the assistant Assembly floor majority leader and also was picked for a committee tasked with making recommendations for pension changes for public employees.

O’Connor said Allen and other lawmakers can take credit for instituting some of the recommended pension changes, as well as for legislation tied to prisons, the telecom industry and health care.

She said the group also succeeded in passing a state budget on time, albeit one that relies heavily on the outcome of Proposition 30, a tax measure supported by Brown.

O’Connor said the tax measure factored into Brown’s analysis of which bills to sign.

She also noted the role politics played in an election year, including for Assembly members.

A poll released this week by the Public Policy Institute of California revealed that only 30 percent of survey respondents approved of the job state lawmakers are doing. That’s a modest improvement over this time last year when the approval rating was at 26 percent.

Dan Walters, a longtime political columnist for the Sacramento Bee, said the Legislature’s work this year reinforces that the “real arena” for setting public policy in California is through the initiative process. He said the Legislature, by comparison, played “small ball.”

“None of what happened this year truly represents an effort to get beyond political gamesmanship and identify the most pressing public policy issues of California, whether it’s water, education, transportation or tax reform,” Walters said.

“All of these things that need to be done were sitting on Jerry Brown’s desk when he was governor 30 years ago, and they are still sitting there,” Walters said.

Huffman said he found collaboration this year on his state parks bill, which among other things, allows Californians to redirect portions of their tax refunds to a parks “protection fund” in exchange for an annual state park day-use access pass.

Motorists also will be given the opportunity to buy special license plates with a portion of the proceeds going to state parks.

But he said most other issues fell along party lines, including his bill, signed by Brown, that extends the sunset date for the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority to 2020.

“That should have been an easy bill for people to support, and yet the Republican caucus was against it,” Huffman said.

Chesbro, D-Arcata, said the legislation he got through this year will create jobs on the North Coast and address environmental concerns. That includes laws aimed at protecting California’s crab fishing fleet from out-of-state vessels and ensuring adequate environmental review for timber harvest plans.

Chesbro said he was disappointed that his bill that would have encouraged employers to hire the disabled did not make it out of committee.

But he said even when thwarted, a bill can sometimes achieve the desired goal of spurring change, citing as an example the response he got from the state’s Natural Resources Agency when he introduced legislation threatening to make changes to the Marine Life Protection Act.

“Sometimes the threat of a bill can have a beneficial effect without it getting to the governor,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

11 Responses to “North Coast lawmakers behind 43 new laws”

  1. Graeme Wellington says:

    Can our lawmakers at least put sunset clauses in all these laws? Can we get our law makers repealing all the bad laws they passed in the preceding terms? More and more and more laws. No wonder California people and business is moving to Texas.

    They are starting some libertarian city in an island off Honduras and it looks like it’s going to happen. What laws did they choose for the libertarian utopia? Texas business law!


    Wise up California law makers. Do less. Send less. We don’t need laws for everything. This is America.

  2. Commonsense says:

    Gov. Jerry Brown has signed 12,744 laws since taking office. Think about it, reality is that none of us, including those in State Gov’t can possibly maintain the number of laws in effect at this point.
    It would be great if those in government really (and I mean really) would commit to take the time to clean up the statutes of this state, reduce wasteful spending and duplicative agencies, and just all around clean up. But, no instead each election cycle we seem to re-elect all the same people and pass at lease one or two more initiatives into costly laws. Well, not this voter. I may be a minority at this point, but I’m not voting for any new laws or taxes and no incumbants (where possible). Insanity really is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, and apparently we have gotten really crazy over the years.

  3. Jim says:

    Do the voters in CA understand that in any given week every person has probably violated one of the tens of thousands of laws passed by the dopes they’ve elected, and could likely be jailed at any time?

    There are thousands of laws related to the environment that have jail time included. The level of control that the politicians in this state have over our lives is unfathomable, yet they pass more and more laws every year and get re-elected because of them.


  4. John Bly says:

    We would be better off if whoever got elected simply takes no initiative whatsoever. Do nothing for the whole term. At least they won’t be adding more regulations that are not necessary.

  5. Juan Lock says:

    All our legislators are doing is making more laws! Won’t they work to cut down on the amount of laws and regulations we have? The CA constitution is the largest legal document in the world, and here we have union and environmental thugs like Allen and Huffman throwing thousands more words in thanks to to their so called “bills” They say the legislation is going to help people, but I think they just want to see their names in the paper. Recall them all, I say, the power has gone to their heads.

  6. MendoTech says:

    43 New Laws: That amazing total from just a few North Coast legislators!!

    What is the cost to us taxpayers for each of these new laws? How is it that special interest groups like the teachers (unions) or the commercial balloon operators are accorded special “. . . unemployment benefits for laid-off teachers . . . ” or being exempted from regulation by the Public Utilities Commission?

    How do the rest of us small business and working folks get this kind of special treatment?

    I know: Just make a significant money contribution to Mr. Allen, Ms Evans, or their fellow legislators, and you are good to go. Only the little people are subject to the consequences of these new laws.

    The left wing power block continues to pander to the unions and other special interests, thus ensuring their continued presence while building their outrageous retirements.

    Meanwhile, We the People pay!!

  7. Grapevines says:

    Critic at Large suggest that “These Northern California legislators should be ashamed of their record and lack of performance.” the dismal reality is that they are not. A person with normal intelligence and sense of obligation would be. These “JERKS” are not people who fit into that category however.

    Self serving, in it for themselves only, what can I get out of this, is the quality that suits them. And they keep getting away with it because the sheep that live here, keep voting them in.

    Just for once, show some backbone and intelligence, when Evans and Allen say “Vote for me” SAY NO!!

    Throw their worthless backsides out and get someone in who will do the job. Because we sure as heck don’t have anyone in there filling that role now.

  8. Big Jim says:

    I’m sure glad we got laws passed to deal with the crisis in breastfeeding in the workplace and electronic data in civil cases..(sarcasm) because they sure wouldn’t want to waste their time fixing the $400 billion pension shortfall, the school funding mess they created, or improving our roads or anything..no.. lets keep the focus on boobs – I mean our legislators.
    Lets keep voting for these dimwits Allen and Evans…(more sarcasm)

  9. Critic at Large says:

    All of these leftists democrats from Northern California use the hammer principle to perceived problems in our society. Every problem is a nail and can be solved with a big hammer.

    They love passing needless over regulating laws many of which are uninforceable just so they have it on the resume.

    Huffman extending the life of a sunset law in Sonoma County for 8 years is a good example. Chesbro’s law “ensuring adequate environmental review” for proposed timber cutting. How many more bureaucrats will be hired to enforce this review? The list goes on.

    The Sacramento Bee was right, the state legislature plays “small ball.”

    They do nothing about the real issues facing California, the state debt, the out of control deficit spending, poor schools, the state pension system, huge growing deficit, a highway system that is one of the worst in the country and that ever growing 16 or 17 billion dollar state budget deficit which is driving the state quickly down the bumpy road to bankrupacy.

    The California state legislature is owned and a total tool of the public unions. They do not operate in the interests of the citizens of this state. They operate in the self interest of the public unions.

    These Northern California legislators should be ashamed of their record and lack of performance. If they had real jobs working for a private sector firm, they would have all been fired years ago and good riddance.

    Just say no to this class of do nothings in November.

  10. George Macaulay says:

    Travelling on state business in Russia and France? I doubt it that’s a cover for a taxpayer paid vacation!!!

  11. Snarky says:

    The troubled park system?

    Uh, ya mean that secret stash of $54 million dollars that the state park system was caught with?

    Ya mean those 70 senior state park managers at park HQ who granted themselves, illegally, cash grants … and those cash grants were taken directly from that secret stash of $54 million dollars ???

    All the “laws” that the government created and creates did little to stop that corruption over the last ten years. Right?