And From the “Nero, Stop Sawing on That Damn Fiddle” File

The Legislature’s most significant action April 8 was to send Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger the first federal tax conformity bill in five years.

Contained in its 80-pages are numerous tax code changes ranging from boosting penalties for understating liability to treatment of self-created musical works. The most significant provisions in SB 401 by Sen. Lois Wolk, a Davis Democrat, are  – offering mortgage debt forgiveness of up to $250,00 to homeowners forced into short sales and preventing renewable energy companies from being taxed on federal stimulus dollars they receive.

“This measure will provide immediate tax relief desperately needed by the many Californians who were forced to walk away from their homes and face substantial tax bills they can’t afford,” Wolk said in a statement after the bill was sent to the GOP governor who is expected to sign it.

But far more time in both the Assembly and the Senate was spent passing resolutions, non-binding documents commemorating or commending various causes or urging action by some other entity.

The Assembly spent almost as much time debating Assembly Joint Resolution 32 by Assemblyman Bill Monning, a Santa Cruz Democrat, as it did on Wolk’s tax bill.

His resolution memorializes – asks – “the United States Senate to ratify, and the President to sign, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,” a treaty ratified by the United Nations in 1981 and subsequently adopted by 185 countries.

Among the “Whereases” contained in the resolution – each paragraph begins with the word – are that countries who ratify the treaty must let women vote, offer them quality education, give them the right to maternity leave, equal employment opportunities.

“Women represent the majority of our population,” said Assemblywoman Lori Saldana a San Diego Democrat who chairs the lower house’s Women’s Caucus. “There is a loss of wealth to everyone when women are discriminated against.”

Saldana encouraged her colleagues who have “an important woman” in their lives “to think of her and her rights to equality. This is not just about the words on the page it’s about the treatment of the human beings around us.”

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, an Irvine Republican challenging U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, objected to the resolution saying adoption of the treaty would allow countries like Saudi Arabia to have “purview” over United States domestic policy. “This is not symbolic. This is deadly serious,’ DeVore warned.

Getting to the heart of the matter, Assemblyman Anthony Adams, a Hesperia Republican, said the resolution does “nothing more than encourage the Senate to take action.” To suggest that if the Senate were to act would allow “rogue nations” to control America is “at best specious,” Adams said.

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, a Santa Monica Democrat, said passage of the resolution was “personal.” She noted that the United States is the only industrialized country not to sign the nearly 30-year-old treaty.

“I can’t believe we’re having this debate on this floor,” Brownley said, since supporting the resolution was such an obvious move

Assemblyman Juan Arambula, a Fresno Independent, said he was going to vote for the resolution because his son called him two days before to say he and his wife are expecting a girl.

As he has on several prior lengthy debates regarding resolutions, freshman Assemblyman Chris Norby, a Yorba Linda Republican, said:

“Our time here is precious. Rather than sending non-binding resolutions to the Congress I’d prefer we focus on direct issues.”

The resolution was approved on a 52-2.

While Monning’s measure generated the most debate, the Assembly also adopted Concurrent Resolution 123 and Concurrent Resolution 115.

Concurrent Resolution 123 proclaims the third Monday of each September

“California Memorial Project Remembrance Day,” as a means to “honor and restore dignity to individuals who lived and died in California institutions.”

According to the resolution, from the 1880s into the 1960s, more than 45,000 individuals died in the state’s mental hospitals.

“For the most part, the remains of the individuals who died at state institutions were placed in unmarked or numbered graves in mass sites, where numbered markers long ago disappeared and many records identifying where bodies were buried have been misplaced or destroyed,” the resolution’s third paragraph reads.

The resolution notes that gravesites of unknown individuals include – but are not limited to:

“The cremated remains of 2,284 individuals who died at the Modesto State Institution and Stockton Developmental Center at Park View in Manteca.

“The remains of many individuals who received treatment at the Metropolitan State Hospital in the early 1980s relocated to area cemeteries.

“Napa State Hospital, where from 1875 to 1924, inclusive, an estimated 4,368 individuals were buried. Napa State Hospital also interred residents at the St. Helena Public Cemetery, a local paupers field.

“Patton State Hospital, where from 1893 to 1934, inclusive, an estimated 2,024 individuals were buried.

And, “the remains of 1,418 individuals were buried in a cemetery now located in a field on the campus of the Sonoma Developmental Center.”

Passing the resolution and drawing attention to the California Memorial Project and its work to “restore cemeteries, create memorials, develop oral histories, and hold Remembrance Day ceremonies to honor those individuals are critical pieces of California’s history and serve as an opportunity o reflect upon the strides made in reducing the stigma of disability, including psychiatric and developmental disability, as well as promoting community awareness and education.”

After the resolution was approved by a voice vote, consideration of Concurrent Resolution 115 began. It makes April 2010 “California Safe Digging Month.”

The resolution allows as to how “through education about safe digging practices, excavators and homeowners can save time and money and keep our nation safe and connected by making a simple call to a three digit telephone number, 811, in advance of any digging project.”

Calling 811 and speaking to a “One Call Center prior to digging, respecting the marked lines that demarcate underground utilities by maintaining visual definition throughout the course of the excavation, and digging with care around the marked lines will help keep Californians safe and prevent damage and destruction.”

Not calling 811 prior to digging jeopardizes California’s “underground utility infrastructure” with “unintentional damage.”

Approved by a voice vote.

The Senate approved three concurrent resolutions, two of their own and one from the Assembly.

The Assembly resolution, ACR 82 by Assemblyman Isadore Hall, a Los Angeles Democrat, encourages “public education institutions to designate each campus as a ‘Discrimination-Free Zone’ to provide a safe haven from intolerance or discrimination, to enact appropriate procedures that meaningfully address acts of discrimination that occur on campus, to notify parents and the campus community of existing policies and procedures that encourage tolerance of others, and to use existing resources to identify themselves as ‘Discrimination-Free Zones’ to create a campus climate that welcomes diversity and supports the tolerance of others.”

Because the resolution encourages that tolerance to include “gender identity” and ”sexual orientation,” Republicans sought a roll call vote so some could either vote against or, as was the case with most of them, simply be recorded as not voting.

Also approved by the Senate was Senate Concurrent Resolution 93 designating July 2010 as “Summer Learning and Wellness Month.”

According to its author, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, an Antioch Democrat, children need summer learning to “stay on course” academically.

“The debilitating effect of an absence of summer learning and enrichment is often referred to as ‘the summer slide.’ The summer slide is characterized by measurable learning loss that includes reading loss and significant achievement gaps between children with lower and higher income parents.

The health of many low-income children is also “put at risk during the summer because they lose access to healthy school meals and organized physical activity.”

Most children gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school for summer, the resolution informs. “ Summer weight gains are especially large for African American and Hispanic children. In California, nearly one-third of 5th graders are overweight or obese.”

In conclusion, the resolution resolves that the “California Legislature recognizes that all children need fun, safe, and educational opportunities in the summertime that prevent summer learning loss and summer weight gain.”

Wolk rounded out her work day on the Senate floor carrying Senate Concurrent Resolution 78 declaring the week of April 11 through April 17 “National Library Week.”

More than 21 million Californians use the state’s libraries, the resolution says.

Libraries are “changing and dynamic places, offering books, computers, Internet access, e-mail reference, and other innovative services to connect their users with ideas and information.”

They also “provide technology training for library users of all ages, and help to bridge the ‘digital divide’ for those who do not have access to technology at home or at school.”

Wolk and DeSaulnier’s resolutions required no roll call vote and were approved unanimously.

While the Assembly and the Senate took no action on legislation relating to the state’s estimated $20 billion budget hole, the upper house did consider a measure, SB 1190, which removes the “requirement that animal control officers complete training certified by the Department of Consumer Affairs in order to carry a club or baton.

Instead, the animal control officers would complete cub and baton training approved by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.

The bill was sent to the Assembly on a unanimous vote.



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