Senate Bucks Law Enforcement, Goes Soft on Solar Crime

In two hours of morning work, the Senate sent 16 Assembly bills back to the lower house August 20 – six of them unanimously – held some brief committee hearings and adjourned for the week.

The Assembly, which also scheduled a rare Friday session to cope with the avalanche of bills that bottle up in each house at the close of the legislative session which occurs August 31.

Of the measures considered by the Senate only one was defeated although it was granted reconsideration so it get a second chance at passage.

The measure, AB 1923 by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, a Santa Rosa Democrat, would have authorized the Public utilities Commission to divert money from a $50 million fund for solar energy research to pay for solar antitheft technology.

Roughly half of the research and development money is awarded through competitive grants for projects that reduce the cost of solar energy speed more installation of it.

Although paying for antitheft technology isn’t included in the list of projects the money is supposed to fund, nothing prevents the PUC from awarding a grant for such a thing, which is the basis of the commission’s opposition to the bill.

As the number of solar panels in use has increased, so have thefts.

The Senate analysis of Evans’ bill notes:

“According to the California State Sheriffs’ Association, between June 2008 and September 2009 in Napa County alone, over 400 solar panels worth more than $400,000 were stolen from wineries.

“Solar panels that are stolen are nearly impossible to recover because many panels have no serial number or other method of identification.”

Both the sheriffs’ association and the Napa County Sheriff-Coroner are supporters of the measure. Napa is part of Evans’ Assembly district.

Wineries, with large ground-level arrays of panels are common targets, Evans says, in part because the panels are in fields, not on roofs.

The measure fell three votes short of the 21 needed for passage in the 40-member Senate.


August 20 is the 51st 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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