2016 Legislation

2016 Legislation Introduced by Senator Hill

SB 24 – JPA Pension Fix for San Mateo County
Resolves a pension problem that's preventing the cities of San Mateo, Belmont and Foster City from completing their Joint Powers Agreement for shared fire service. It allows the three cities to provide the JPA employees a defined benefit plan that those employees received as "classic" CalPERS members from their previous employment with the cities. SB 24 is supported by the San Mateo County Firefighters and the California Professional Firefighters as well as the cities of San Mateo, Belmont and Foster City.

SB 438 – Earthquake Early Warning Funding
Appropriates $23.1 million to start funding a statewide earthquake early warning system to help save lives and protect the public before temblors strike. The mandate to create the statewide warning system has been on the books since 2013, with the intent of funding it through public-private partnerships. Those partnerships and funding have yet to materialize. SB 438 (Hill and Hertzberg) and AB 1346 (Gray) address that gap.

SB 465 – Contractors State License Board Settlement Disclosure
Requires both licensees & insurers to report to the Contractors State License Board certain settlements, arbitration awards and administrative actions regarding a licensee as well as convictions of crimes related to a licensee’s practice as a contractor.

Current law does not require contractors to report defect settlement cases to the CSLB. Such disclosure requirements are routine for doctors, architects and engineers. This bill would empower the CSLB, like other boards, to be made aware of licensee behavior for which they may need to take swift action.

The company that constructed the balcony in Berkeley that collapsed killing six people in June 2015 reportedly paid out an astonishing $26.5 million in settlements in just three years. CSLB, which is tasked with protecting consumers from possibly lethal construction, was unaware of these settlements. “Had we known about the suits and the underlying reasons for them, we would have absolutely taken action,” the CSLB’s chief of enforcement, David Fogt, told the Sacramento Bee editorial board.

SB 512 – CPUC Reforms
Would reform the California Public Utilities Commission's governance structure, more clearly outlining the roles and responsibilities of commissioners and staff, and require the CPUC to reach out to communities affected by CPUC decisions instead of only the regulated utilities. It also would:

1) Require the commission to annually approve performance criteria for the commission and the executive director and to annually evaluate the performance of the executive director.

2) Require the CPUC to reach out to those affected by its proceedings before opening rulemakings, not just utilities.

3) Require CPUC judges to adhere to ethics provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act, to reduce pressure on administrative law judges in situations like PG&E’s judge-shopping affair.

4) Require the CPUC to meet in Sacramento six times a year to allow closer oversight of CPUC.

5) Require the CPUC to modify its annual report to clarify how long CPUC takes to finish cases instead of using loopholes to find that everything is “on time.”

SB 661 – Dig Safe Act
Would clarify California’s call-before-you-dig law, improve enforcement and provide a venue for discussions to improve excavation safety by creating the California Safe Excavation Advisory Committee.

The two most recent excavation-related gas pipeline fatalities in the country occurred in California. Roughly 5,000 of California’s natural gas pipelines are hit every year, and it is estimated that roughly half of them occur because the excavator failed to use the free 8-1-1 service so that pipes can be located and marked before digging.

The California Safe Excavation Advisory Committee would investigate accidents and other “call-before-you-dig” violations, develop standards for safe excavation, and coordinate and fund safe excavation outreach efforts.

SB 799 – School Reserve Cap
In June 2014, SB 858 was passed as part of the state budget and included a provision that has come to be known as the school district reserve cap. It is a requirement whereby in a year following a year in which there is a contribution of any amount to the state-level Proposition 98 reserve account (created in Propoposition 2), then school districts would be forced to spend down their assigned and unassigned ending balances to just two times their minimum required level of reserve for economic uncertainty. For most districts, their minimum reserve amount is 3 percent so the reserve cap would be two times that.

While the trigger for the cap to actually require districts to spend their funds may not be pulled in the near future, school districts, bond rating agencies, school boards, school administrators, parents, public interest groups and press statewide are all calling for a repeal of the reserve ca -- or short of a repeal, a reform of the cap to ensure that districts have the means to protect employees and programs during the next recession and the flexibility to set monies aside for large purchases like text books, technology and school buses while also funding school construction, self-insurance, large maintenance projects, etc.

The main reform in Senate Bill 799 is a new, more reasonable reserve cap of 17 percent of unassigned balances in a district’s General Fund and Special Reserve Fund for other than Capital Outlay Projects without regard to district size. Seventeen percent represents the minimum recommended amount of reserves local governments should maintain (two months worth), according to the Government Finance Officers Association.

SB 812 – Reforming CHP Bus Inspection Program
Will improve the safety of buses that operate in California by boosting the current tour bus inspection program by the California Highway Patrol and providing more inspection funding for the program. On November 13, 2015, a double-decker tour bus crashed in Union Square in San Francisco, injuring 20 people, at least five critically. The bus had never been inspected by the CHP and was not properly registered with the California Public Utilities Commission, as is required by law.

Under the current bus inspection program, which was established in 1986, the CHP inspects a sampling of each bus company’s fleet once a year, resulting in about only 30 percent of buses being inspected. Unless a bus company has 100 or more buses, the inspections are scheduled, providing bus operators the opportunity to make sure that the vehicles available for inspection are in good repair. Additionally, under current law, bus operators pay an inspection fee of only $15, which hasn’t been raised since 1986, resulting in inadequate funds to the cover the costs. The rest of the cost is paid for by state revenue. Each inspection typically costs the CHP $300 to $400 per bus.

SB 812 authorizes the CHP to increase the inspection fee to cover the program costs and modifies the existing inspection program so it’s based on carrier performance metrics to better target bad actors. It also will require the CHP to do more surprise inspections and will implement a rule that puts carriers out of service that receive three consecutive unsatisfactory inspection ratings.

SB 814 – Fines for excessive water users. Bill Idea Proposed by Constituent in "Ought Be a Law...Or Not" Contest (OBAL)
Ensures all Californians share in the efforts to conserve water during California’s worst drought in recorded history.

Under current drought rules, $500 fines can be assessed for simple water use infractions, but residential water users in California that use an excessive amount of water are not subject to any fines. The great majority of Californians are making sacrifices to conserve water and meet the mandatory statewide water conservation goal of 25%, but a segment of residential water users appear to be using as much water as they want, whenever they want, in some cases millions of gallons a year. This is a clear inequity in California’s efforts to conserve water during the state’s worst drought in recorded history.

SB 814 will require both public and private urban retail water suppliers – agencies that directly provide potable municipal water to more than 3,000 users – to have a policy in place to levy fines against excessive water users.

SB 816 – Improving Board of Equalization Disclosure & Recusal Rules for Contributions
Ensures that BOE members comply with transparency and recusal procedures for all donations received in the previous 12 months instead of just donations over $250. In recent years, firms have begun to circumvent the intent of the law: A BOE member’s reelection campaign received 45 contributions of $249 each from executives, attorneys and other employees of a tax consulting firm, totaling more than $11,000. Another BOE member received 25 contributions of $249 each from employees of the same tax consulting firm.

SB 869 – Preventing Gun Theft From Police Vehicles

Aligns the requirements for law enforcement officers with the requirements for civilians when leaving a handgun in a car. The proper and secure storage of handguns is a key part of preventing theft. To that end, current California law requires civilians who leave their handguns in cars to store them securely in a lockbox or in the trunk. Law enforcement officers, however, are exempt from this requirement. Throughout 2015, several handguns were stolen from vehicles owned or used by law enforcement officers. Some of the guns were used in crimes, including two murders.

SB 869 requires any person – including law enforcement officers for local, state or federal agencies – to take the same precautions that civilians do when firearms are left in vehicles. Specifically, the bill makes it clear that any person, when leaving a handgun unattended in a vehicle, must lock the handgun in a vehicle’s trunk or lock the handgun in a locked container out of plain view. A violation of the requirement is an infraction, punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000.

SB 986 - Right on Red Ticket Fine Amount (OBAL)
Reduces the fine for failing to come to a complete stop “California Stop” while turning right at a red light. Thus, the offense would be cited similar to other minor moving violations with a base fine ticket of $35, rather than the $100 it is being cited for today. Straight through and left-turn red light violations would still be cited at the $100 base fine ticket amount. SB 986 simply makes sure the penalty fits with the seriousness of the offense. Failing to come to a complete stop at red light when turning right should have the same fine as making an unsafe right turn, which carries a base fine of $35.

SB 994 - Outpatient Antibiotic Stewardship
Will extend antibiotic stewardship protocols that are already required by law for hospitals and nursing homes to outpatient doctor offices. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant infections, a major public health threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 2 million Americans are infected with – and at least 23,000 Americans die as a result of – antibiotic resistant infections every year, resulting in at least $20 billion in direct health care costs and at least $35 billion in lost productivity in the United States. According to the CDC, across the country in 2013, healthcare providers prescribed 268.6 million courses of antibiotics in outpatient settings. The CDC estimates that 50 percent of these prescriptions are unnecessary and contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant infections. SB 994 will ensure that outpatient healthcare settings – doctors’ offices and primary clinics– adhere to antibiotic stewardship guidelines to promote the judicious use of antibiotics.

SB 996 - Affordable Housing Property Tax Cap (OBAL)
Will aid nonprofits and religious organizations that provide affordable housing by increasing the property tax exemption from $20,000 annually to $100,000 annually. Provides the necessary property tax relief to certain nonprofit organizations so that these tax-exempt organizations can continue to provide more affordable housing for low income people and families.

SB 1004 - Transitional Youth Diversion Pilot Program
Would allow 18- to 21-year-olds in five counties to remain in juvenile detention, rather than county jail, under a pilot program. Although under the law they are adults, young offenders ages 18 to 21 are still undergoing significant brain development, and it’s becoming clear that this age group may be better served by the juvenile justice system with corresponding age-appropriate intensive services. SB 1004 would allow the counties of Alameda, Butte, Napa, Nevada and Santa Clara to voluntarily enact a pilot program that designates certain young adult offenders, ages 18 to 21, as transitional adult youth who would be allowed to be housed in a juvenile detention facility, rather than in a county jail for adults. Because these young adults will be housed in juvenile detention facilities they will have services available to them -- such as mental health, vocational and educational services for their age group -- that would not be available in a county jail.

SB 1017 - Expanding Public Access to Utility Documents Provided to the CPUC
Clarifies that the CPUC may develop regulations to permit streamlined public access to safety-related information without requiring a vote of the commissioners to release public records. SB 1017 responds to a Governor’s veto message about earlier similar legislation and by clarifying that the CPUC has the authority to develop regulations governing the disclosure of public records that utilities designate as “confidential.”

Current law makes it very difficult for the public to get public records from the CPUC. Public Utilities Code Section 583 requires that the full Commission vote to release documents that have been designated by a utility as “confidential.” This process requires staff to draft a resolution, which must be placed on a meeting agenda no fewer than ten days in advance of being voted on (pursuant to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act). While there is no penalty for a utility to designate too much as “confidential,” CPUC staff is subject to a misdemeanor for release of this information—regardless of whether the utility’s claim of confidentiality has any validity.

The bill would allow to CPUC to develop regulations on claims of confidentiality so that it can streamline the process for responding to public records by restricting utilities from designating everything as confidential and removing the specter of staff committing a misdemeanor for processing routine Public Records Act requests.

SB 1028 – Wildfire Mitigation Plans
Would require the CPUC to provide closer oversight of electric utility plans to prevent their power lines from starting wildfires. The Butte Fire in September 2015 — which burned 70,868 acres in Amador and Calaveras Counties, destroyed 818 structures, and caused two fatalities — appears to have been caused by contact between a power line and a tree. California’s largest electric utilities spent considerable sums of ratepayer money on measures intended to prevent their infrastructure from sparking destructive wildfires like those of 2007, but the California Public Utilities Commission has yet to develop and adopt more aggressive safety regulations for utilities.

In contrast, the state of Victoria in Australia announced an overhaul of its wildfire prevention regulations within months of the devastating "Black Saturday” conflagrations in February 2009, when high winds caused 15 fires, four of which were caused by power lines and one of which killed 120 people. Under the new, tougher fire prevention rules, Victoria’s parliament required electric utilities to submit wildfire mitigation plans and required the regulator to approve and audit those plans. Victoria’s energy regulator also ramped up its oversight of prevention programs in response to the "Black Saturday."

SB 1028 would require electric utilities in California to develop wildfire mitigation plans that are subject to review and approval by the CPUC. In addition to scrutinizing the plan, the CPUC would be required to audit their implementation.

SB 1033 - Patient Notification of Doctors on Probation
Requires physicians, podiatrists, acupuncturists and chiropractors on probation for serious offenses such as sexual misconduct, substance abuse, gross negligence, or a felony conviction related to patient care to notify patients of their probationary status before visits take place. Eighty-two percent of Americans favor the idea of doctors having to tell patients they are on probation, and why, according to a 2016 Consumer Reports survey.

On average, 500 to 600 of the 137,000 licensed physicians in California are on probation at any given time for serious offenses. This is less than half of one percent of the total active licensee population.

Physicians, podiatrists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors are gatekeepers for healthcare, and patients expect that these professionals are functioning with a clean license. Physicians and podiatrists are already required to inform hospitals and malpractice insurers of their probation status, but their patients have to seek out the information for themselves on the state’s license database. Many patients may not know they can look up their provider’s disciplinary history online, have the time to do so, or lack Internet access.

SB 1040 – Improving California’s Child Adoption Rules
Would establish safeguards to prevent adopted children from being "rehomed” -- being given by their adoptive parents to other individuals or families without knowledge or approval of the courts, the state Department of Social Service, county adoption agencies or licensed adoption agencies. Such transfer of custody, especially of troubled children or those adopted from other countries, enables adoptive parents to pass children who are no longer wanted to others without oversight -- and leaves children prey to abusers and unsafe environments. SB 1040 would also require the Department of Social Services to adopt regulations ensuring that postadoptive services are available to adoptive parents so they can better understand the special needs of their new children with the aim of preventing rehoming.

SB 1046 - IIDs for DUI Offenders Statewide
Expands California’s four-county pilot program to a statewide requirement that all DUI offenders install Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs).

A recent report by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) found that IIDs in California have prevented over 1 million instances of drinking and driving since 2010.

 

According to DMV data, during the last 30 years, more than 50,000 people have died in California because of drunk drivers and over 1 million have been injured.

Under current law, installation of IIDs is optional for DUI offenders. The program currently underway in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties requires IIDs for any convicted drunk driver (AB 91 of 2009). SB 61 (Hill, 2015) temporarily continued the four-county pilot program so the Legislature has time to review an expected DMV report and to determine the best way to move forward.

With the DMV report yet to be released by spring 2016, Senator Hill introduced SB 1046 to expand the pilot program statewide based on the MADD study that showed IIDs prevented individuals who had been drinking from driving in more than 1 million instances from 2010 to 2015.

Currently, 25 states have laws requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), requiring or highly incentivizing interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers reduces drunk driving recidivism by 67 percent. The CDC recommends Ignition interlocks for everyone convicted of DWI, even for first offenders. In New Mexico, where an interlock law was implemented in 2005, drunk driving fatalities have decreased by 38 percent. Since Arizona and Louisiana implemented their interlock law in 2007, drunk driving deaths have dropped by 43 and 35 percent, respectively. In Oregon, which has had an interlock law on the books since 2008, DUI deaths are down 42 percent.

SB 1049 – Utility Safety Accident Reports
Requires gas and electric utilities to provide root cause analyses to the California Public Utilities Commission upon request for accidents involving fatality or serious injury.

 

In September 2013, 28-year-old Brandon Orozco, working for a Southern California Edison contractor, was trapped underground and died after an electrical vault exploded in Huntington Beach. The details of what caused the explosion and death are not fully known because the utility has refused to provide the investigation to the CPUC. The utility claims the investigation is subject to attorney-client privilege because it was pursued by its claims department at the request of its lawyers.

Root cause analyses are essential to understanding how accidents occurred, learning from them, preventing similar tragedies from occurring, and enhancing worker and public safety.

###