Monday, February 28, 2011

Capitol Weekly's Lucas: Examples of bills active in the Legislature

Under the radar: Lots cooking in the Capitol besides the budget
By Greg Lucas | 02/10/11 12:00 AM PST Capitol Weekly

While passage of dozens of bills to help close what’s now at least a $26 billion budget shortfall appears to be anything but imminent, it’s not like the Legislature didn’t do anything in January.

Some 15 members of the Senate and Assembly held Sacramento fundraisers where the minimum price to attend was $1,000.

They also introduced 278 pieces of legislation, adding to the 177 they introduced in December, when the legislative session officially began.

Of the 278, 62 are placeholders for budget-related actions. There are 31 Assembly bills and 31 Senate bills.

Although Gov. Jerry Brown has asked lawmakers to pass a raft of budget-related bills by March and published his proposed contents for those bills on his Department of Finance’s website, none of the 62 bills appear to have yet been amended to incorporate that content.

Nor is a measure to place an extension of $9.2 billion in taxes on the June ballot in danger of being voted on in either house.  

But the state wants to crack down on professional photocopiers – as opposed to the amateurish ones responsible for the machines in most businesses.

That’s what AB 214 does – require ID cards for “professional photocopiers” to contain a photograph of the employee.

Presumably to rein in a rash of impostors palming themselves off as “professional photocopiers.”

The bill by Assemblyman Mike Davis, a Los Angeles Democrat, specifies the card shall be no less than 3.25 inches by 2 inches and, oddly enough, at the top bear the title “Professional Photocopier.”

One vexing problem solved. Next?

More than 10 of February’s newly minted bills express the Legislature’s “intent” to do something. That means the bills don’t do anything but they hope to in the future.

One bill hopes the Legislature will approve adding the role of Filipinos in World War II to the state’s social studies curriculum.

Another wants to, at some later date, try to “eliminate or reduce any unnecessary duplication of fingerprint clearances for prospective adoptive parents.”

GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue of Chico offers AB 87, a well-intentioned bill relating to inspections of home furnishings.

As no doubt all Californians are aware, the Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation Act provides for the licensure and regulation of various manufacturers, sellers, upholsterers, and sanitizers of home furnishings, including bedding.

Again, as is well known, this act is enforced by the chief of the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation.

The chief or any of the bureau’s redoubtable inspectors can cut into any article of upholstered furniture or bedding to rip out some part for further analysis.     

Indeed, existing law allows the chief or other inspectors to condemn, withhold from sale, seize, or destroy any upholstered furniture or bedding - or any filling material or insulation - that is found to be in violation of the act.

The act commences at Section 19000 of California’s Business and Professions Code. Section 19002 takes the liberty of defining what constitutes a “person.”

A person, as far as the Home Furnishing and Thermal Insulation Act is concerned, includes “individual, copartnership, association, firm, auctioneer, trust, and corporation and the agents, servants and employees of any of them.”

Several sections later, it is revealed the "highest priority of the bureau is protection of the public. Then definitions are offered for “upholstered furniture,” “seating furniture,” “bedding,” “antique” and “filling material.”

An important distinction is drawn between “used” and “secondhand.”

Not surprisingly, “used” is defined as “furniture or bedding that has been previously owned or used by another individual.”

On the other hand, “secondhand” is “materials or articles used in the construction of bedding or upholstered furniture that have been previously used for any purpose, and shall include ‘sweepings’ which are wastes recovered from gins, furniture and bedding factories, textile plants, or establishments using fibers or other materials.

“Manufacturing processes shall not be considered previous use, and new materials that are free from dirt or other contamination shall not be classified as sweepings.”

The bureau is responsible for the licensing and inspection of businesses that manufacture and sell upholstered furniture, bedding and thermal insulation. It also enforces health and safety standards - such as flammability - product labeling requirements and truth in advertising laws.

There’s a laboratory in North Highlands where the bureau tests the stuff they cut out of furniture and bedding, new, secondhand or otherwise.

Assemblyman Logue intends for the Legislature to require the inspectors or the bureau chief to compensate the owners of the furniture or bedding they tear into.

The measure doesn’t require that, however. Logue is merely desirous that someday the Legislature will start to begin to commence to get ready and require checks be cut for the wretched, long-suffering makers of bedding, furniture and thermal insulation.

In the first of the bill’s five paragraphs, Logue notes, “it is the right of every person to own private property.”

Then: “The right to private property is fundamental to other civil rights, and it is the duty of government to observe and protect this right.”

John Hancock’s signature does not grace the bottom of his measure.  

Logue also wants to crack down on car washing establishments that don’t register. He would have the state Labor Commissioner get in touch with those who fail to register and let them know if they don’t hustle up and get it done within 60 days, they could be subject to a civil fine.

As the Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation Act illustrates, a key part of legislation involves definitions. A “person” could be defined as something very different in the Health and Welfare Code.

Bills also “prescribe” and “specify” and “exempt.”

For example, SB 110 attempts to clarify what constitutes a “nuisance” when it comes to mining.

The measure, by freshman Sen. Michael Rubio, a Bakersfield Democrat, defines "mining activity, operation, or facility, or appurtenances thereof" as including but not limited to the following:

“Excavation, extraction, or removal from land of ores and minerals, including sand, gravel, shells, or stone, or combinations thereof, used to produce a construction material or an industrial product or other commercial product directly from those ores and minerals, including the private ways, roads, and areas necessary to conduct that activity or operation, and the operation of a plant site for processing those ores and minerals, including associated onsite structures, equipment, machines, tools, or other materials, including the onsite stockpiling and onsite recovery of those ores and minerals.”

No definition of “appurtenances” is offered although Webster’s says it means “accessory objects,” or a subordinate part of something.

Sometimes definitions come with exceptions, as in AB 185 by Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, a Baldwin Park Democrat.

As might be expected, the definition of "maternity services" includes “prenatal care, ambulatory care, maternity services, involuntary complications of pregnancy, neonatal care, and inpatient hospital maternity care, including labor and delivery and postpartum care.”

However, Hernandez’s bill, which seeks to ensure people know with certainty that all health care plans cover “maternity services,” would not apply to “specialized health insurance, Medicare supplement insurance, short-term limited duration health insurance, CHAMPUS-supplement insurance, or TRI-CARE supplement insurance, or to hospital indemnity, accident-only, or specified disease insurance.”    

Perhaps instead of prescribing, lawmakers might consider proscribing bill introductions in March.

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