A Busy Thursday Morning Moving Product in the State Senate
In approximately two-and-one-half hours on August 19, the state Senate during its morning session sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger 43 pieces of legislation, 34 of them on unanimous votes.
A budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 wasn’t one of them.
Of nine bills that received votes in opposition, only four had seven or more “no” votes.
Among the most contentious was a measure, SB 330, which would apply the public records act to auxiliary bodies that support California State University campuses and the University of California. One GOP lawmakers said the measure was politically motivated because an auxiliary group for California State University Stanislaus had former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin headline a black tie fundraiser in June.
Sen. Leland Yee, the San Francisco Democrat who authored the disclosure measure, sent a letter to the foundation asking it to disclose Palin’s speaking fee.
“At a time when students are struggling to afford an education at CSU, I would hope that spending potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on a guest speaker for a black-tie gala would be low on the priority list,” Yee wrote.
“Money that is spent on bringing an out-of-touch former politician to campus could be spent on scholarships and other financial assistance during these challenging budget times.”
Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar measure last year saying that “subjecting the altruistic activities of private donors and volunteers to the (state public records act) will have a chilling effect on their support and service, if they believe their personal privacy could be compromised.”
Garnering 11 “no” votes was a bill that would give the state’s Division of labor Standards, which enforces minimum workplace standards, three years instead of current to one to file an action to collect a civil penalty, fee, or penalty fee.
Sponsoring the bill is the Rural Legal Assistance Foundation whose website says its mission is to “improve rights and opportunities for California’s immigrants, their families and communities.”
Ten unions, including the Jockeys’ Guild and California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, also support the measure.
The Senate analysis of the bill – SB 903 by Sen. Rod Wright, a Los Angeles Democrat – shows no opposition but it seems likely the opposition by GOP senators stemmed from its potential costs to businesses by giving the state more time to charge them for workplace violations.
An odd coalition of opponents lodged seven “no” votes against SB 1375, a bill sponsored by AT&T and Verizon that they say would “upgrade” the way 911 services is provided to customers.
Currently phone companies must provide 911-access to every residential connection, even when account hasn’t been established. Access can’t be cut off to delinquent accounts.
Phone companies pay for the cost of the landline access and say that as more people switch to wir4eless the maintenance costs increase.
The phone companies argue that the current law is outdated because more callers are using wireless phones.
A June 2009 study by the state found that of the 25 million 911 calls placed annually, approximately two-thirds came from wireless phones.
Because of these changes “what was intended as a public safety benefit has become a public safety burden that also imposes costs on the state, local governments and companies,” AT&T writes in support of the measure.
“Today, customers switch carriers with relative ease, taking their phone numbers with them and receiving 911 service from whomever is their current provider. No company owns the customer or the telephone connection inside the house. Today, a warm line provisioned in 1995 could be connected but the customer has no landline phone to plug into it because they have gone all wireless.”
Opponents argue that the measure will diminish 911 availability and potentially harm public safety. Among those voting “no” were several GOP lawmakers and Sen. Loni Hancock, a Berkeley Democrat, and Sen. Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat.
But the bulk of the two-and-one-half hours were spent passing bills that generated so little controversy Republicans and Democrats could agree on them.
Among those measures, the definition of small business in the Capital Access Company Law would be changed a new definition for a “smaller business” would be added.
Several urgency bills were approved including a unanimous one to change the definition of “fire apparatus” so more emergency vehicles can be exempted from state vehicle size and weight limits.
Currently excluded from the definition of ”fire apparatus” are hazardous materials response vehicles, rescue vehicles, command post communications vehicles, buses, mobile kitchens, mobile sanitation facilities and heavy equipment transport vehicles.
The bill, SB 1220, would change the definition of “fire apparatus” to:
“A vehicle designed, maintained and used under emergency conditions to transport personnel and equipment, or for the suppression of fires or mitigation of other hazardous situations, consistent with the 2009 Standard 1901 of the National Fire Protection Association.”
Included on the unanimously approved list was SB 1330, the annual “Maintenance of the Codes” in which every year the Legislative Counsel identifies grammatical and technical errors in state law.
Among the sections requiring adjustment in the lengthy measure is SEC. 6, Section 1246 of the Business and Professions Code.
It is now amended to read:
“Except as provided in subdivisions (b) and (c), and in Section 23158 of the Vehicle Code, an unlicensed person employed by a licensed clinical laboratory may perform venipuncture or skin puncture for the purpose of withdrawing blood or for clinical laboratory test purposes upon specific authorization from a licensed physician and surgeon.”
Also approved by the Senate was a resolution, which has no force of law, in which the Senate and the Assembly formally apologize for America’s treatment of Italian Americans during World War II, calling it a “fundamental injustice.”
On the list is 1993’s resolution declaring October “Italian-American History Month,” creation of the Italian-American Task in 1995 as an advisory body to the Assembly and the 1998 designation of the second week of October of every year as “Italian-American Wartime Remembrance Week” and recognition of the “Una Stori Segeta” exhibit – The Secret Story — at the Capitol in 1998.
Senators who are not part of legislative leadership receive an annual salary of $95,291, a little over $7,940 each month, before taxes each.
Dividing 365 days into $95,291, they are paid roughly $261 per day.
When the Senate is in session its members receive $142 in per diem each day. Per diem is tax-free unless a legislator lives within 50 miles of the Capitol.
Assuming an eight-hour workday, as state law requires other businesses to use or pay overtime, a senator receives $32.60 each hour in salary and $17.75 in per diem.
Using that calculation, the Senate’s morning session – not counting the salaries of Senate staff or sergeants-at-arms – was over $5,036.
August 19 is the 50th day of the new fiscal year for which no budget has been enacted. The Legislature is required by the constitution to send the governor a spending plan by June 15, two weeks before the start of the fiscal year.
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