2017 Legislation

Here are summaries of key bills Senator Jerry Hill has introduced for 2017, the first year of the 2017-2018 Legislative Session.

Senate Bill 19 - CPUC Reform

SB 19 enacts provisions for reform of the California Public Utilities Comimission that were part of bills by Senators Hill and Mark Leno and Assemblymember Mike Gatto that did not pass the Legislature this past summer.

SB 19 would:

  • Clarify that the superior court has the authority to review CPUC determinations on Public Records Act issues.
  • Require the Secretary of Transportation to annually report statistics and analysis of performance of transportation-related regulatory functions that are to be moved from the CPUC to the California State Transportation Agency.
  • Clarify the CPUC must first seek assistance from the state Attorney General before embarking on any plans to seek assistance from outside legal counsel.

SB 20 - Charter Bus Seatbelt

SB 20 requires passengers riding in buses equipped with seatbelts to wear them, closing a loophole in federal and state safety standards.

Under a rule that took effect in November 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now requires all new buses of a certain type to have seatbelts for passengers.SB 20 would make failure to buckle up in a bus equipped with safety belts a violation that carries a $20 fine to the passenger for the first offense and a $50 fine for all subsequent offenses, consistent with the law for seatbelts in cars.

Before the trip begins, charter bus operators would be responsible for informing passengers about the new requirement to wear their seatbelts. The safety devices can reduce traffic accident fatalities by as much as 44 percent and reduce moderate to severe injuries by as much as 45 percent, according to the NHTSA.

SB 21 - Police Surveillance Transparency

SB 21 extends existing privacy standards for automatic license plate readers and cell-intercept devices to all surveillance technology used by law enforcement agencies.

California enacted two laws by Senator Hill in 2015 – SB 34 and SB 741 – that require law enforcement agencies to develop privacy and use policies, if they deploy an automatic license plate reader system or a cell phone intercept device. The surveillance technologies collect wide-ranging information on members of the public. SB 34 and SB 741 balance Californian’s civil liberties and privacy with law enforcement’s use of the high-tech tools to fight crime, but are applicable only to two specific technologies. Other surveillance technology used by police include facial recognition systems, social media scrubbers, biometric scanners, video surveillance and more.

SB 22 - Law Enforcement Firearms Accountability

SB 22 helps improve law enforcement agencies’ oversight of their firearms. The bill requires each law enforcement agency in California to have a written procedure in place to account for all its guns. The requirement includes having a process for annual inventories, reconciliation of guns on hand with guns listed in inventory, a process for reporting lost or stolen guns, and a disciplinary procedure for officers who fail to report a lost or stolen firearm.

SB 22 builds on Senator Hill’s SB 869 (2016), which requires law enforcement officers to securely stow handguns in a locked box out of plain view, or in the trunk, when leaving firearms unattended in a vehicle. SB 869 responds to a constituent’s call to require police to be subject to the same safe gun storage measures that others who leave a firearm in an unattended vehicle must follow.

The need for greater oversight of police guns was tragically underscored by two Bay Area murders in 2015 that were committed with guns were stolen from law enforcement officers, as well as a rash of auto burglaries that included the theft of police weapons.

SB 42 - Martins Beach

SB 42 appropriates money from the general fund to the California State Lands Commission for staff resources and acquisition costs that would enable the commission to move ahead if it decides to acquire public access to Martins Beach through eminent domain.

Family owned for years, Martins Beach changed hands in 2008. The controversy over access to the beach began in 2010 when the new owner of the property, a holding company acting for a Silicon Valley billionaire, decided to close a gate on a private road the public had long used to get to the shore.

Legislation by Senator Hill in 2014, Senate Bill 968, directed the State Lands Commission to negotiate with the land owner “to acquire a right-of-way or easement … for the creation of a public access route to and along the shoreline, including the sandy beach, at Martins Beach.” The bill, signed into law by Governor Brown the same year, also directed the commission to use its existing authority of eminent domain to acquire the public right-of-way or easement, if no agreement could be reached with the land owner. Commission staff have negotiated for two years without success.

On December 6, the commission directed staff to map out the steps necessary to pursue eminent domain, but commissioners emphasized that their move was not a "pre-determination" to invoke eminent domain in order to acquire a public right of way or easement to the beach. They did not vote on the matter.

SB 43 - Superbug Tracking

SB 43 establishes a first-in-the-nation system to monitor and track antibiotic-resistant infections and deaths related to these infections caused by “superbugs.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that antibiotic resistance kills 23,000 Americans each year and sickens some 2 million people. In California, health authorities estimate that superbugs are to blame for 3,000 deaths and 260,000 illnesses annually. Despite the public health threat posed by superbugs, California – and the federal government – do not track antibiotic resistant infections or deaths associated with the infections. This bill would ensure that California has a system in place to closely monitor the development of superbug infections and track deaths related to those infections.

Senator Hill authored the first legislation in the U.S. to control use of antibiotics in livestock, SB 27 (2015), and first-in-the-nation legislation to require hospitals, SB 1311 (2014), and nursing homes, SB 361 (2015), to have programs to promote better managed and more accurate prescribing of antibiotics.

SB 65 - No Marijuana Consumption While Driving

SB 65 makes it an infraction for anyone to smoke or consume marijuana in any form while driving a vehicle or piloting a vessel or aircraft, consistent with the law on drinking while operating a car, boat or plane. The bill also would provide judges with the option to penalize the drinking / smoking offense as an infraction or a misdemeanor.

With the passage of Prop. 64, motorists may be cited for an infraction for having an open container or package of marijuana in a vehicle as a result of provisions in the initiative that attempted to make laws on marijuana use and possession while driving consistent with laws on use and possession of alcohol while driving. However, nothing in Prop. 64 or pre-existing law expressly prohibits smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving – leaving law enforcement officers with limited options if a driver is spotted smoking or ingesting marijuana products.

SB 145 - Autonomous Vehicles

SB 145 eliminates a 180-day waiting period for companies that file an application to deploy driverless vehicles. The bill also strikes a requirement that the DMV notify the Legislature each time such an application is submitted.

“California has long been a leader in the development of self-driving cars, and this bill helps to continue our momentum in fostering the technology,” said Senator Hill. “Senate Bill 145 ensures that when the final regulations are published for fully autonomous vehicles, manufacturers that comply with the rules won’t have to wait half a year to put their self-driving cars on the road. This legislation removes that roadblock and enables California to retain its leading edge in this developing field without compromising safety.”

SB 273 - Child Marriage Ban 

Senate Bill 273 would prohibit individuals younger than 18 from marrying by closing a loophole in state law that allows even young children to wed because there is no minimum age requirement for marriage in California.

Current state law allows minors younger than 18 to marry with the signed permission of at least one parent, or that of a legal guardian, and a court order. While pre-marital counseling or a court hearing may be ordered by a judge before such a request is granted, neither is required.

The rate of underage marriages in the United States averages 4.6 of every 1,000 15- to 17-year-olds, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. In California, the underage marriage rate is higher and averages 5.5 of every 1,000 15- to 17-year-olds, according to the study.

SB 464 - Gun Store Security

SB 464 requires that when a gun store is closed, all guns be kept in a secure “facility” on the premises – an area that has steel bars on the windows, deadbolts or a metal grate on doors, and steel bars, metal grating or an alarm system to protect ventilation ports. SB 464 also requires gun store owners to choose from one of two additional security measures: The proprietors must either take their guns out of their display cases and lock them in a safe or vault, or lock up the guns in display cases with a steel rod or cable through the trigger guards. Proprietors who store guns in their display cases when the shop is closed must also place steel or concrete pillars in front of the store.

Redwood City resident Anthony Lazarus submitted the idea for the legislation in Senator Hill's ninth annual "Oughta Be a Law...Or Not" contest, which encourages constituents to propose bill ideas that would improve the quality of life for Californians. Constituents may also submit entries to recommend amending or getting rid of laws that have outlived their usefulness. Mr. Lazarus said a gun store theft on the Peninsula prompted him to enter the contest. Thieves made off with an undisclosed number of weapons after driving a sedan into the front door of a San Carlos gun store, then breaking into display cases. 

Current law requires gun store owners to implement only one of three security measures: Proprietors can store their guns in a secure facility – one that has bars on the windows and deadbolts on the doors – or they can put their guns in a safe, or they can use a steel rod or cable to secure them. Alone, each measure has proven insufficient to prevent thefts, especially if a vehicle is used as a battering ram.

SB 493 - Right-on-Red Fine Reduction

SB 493 corrects the fine level for drivers who make “California stops” by rolling through a red light when turning right, instead of coming to a full stop before turning. The violation was inadvertently included in 1997 legislation, AB 1191 (Shelley), which was intended to increase the penalties for more dangerous offenses, such as running straight through red lights and left-turn violations. Even the bill’s author later conceded the mistake. The costs for red light tickets have increased dramatically. In 1997 before AB 1191 was passed, the total cost for a red light violation was about $100, including fines and penalties. After the legislation became law, the total cost climbed to $270. Today, red light violations – including right-on-red offenses – can cost nearly $500 with fines and penalties.

John Dillon of San Bruno, who submitted the idea last year as part of the "Oughta Be a Law...Or Not" contest, said the high sums are not on par with the offense and can be onerous for households on fixed incomes or for low-income families. Two other constituents have since contacted Senator Hill’s office to express their support for efforts to reduce the base fine. In all, constituents have contacted Senator Hill’s office more 50 times on the issue in recent years.

SB 493 does not change other aspects of right-on-red violations, only the amount of the base fine. Turning right on a red light without making a full stop would continue to be illegal and would continue to add a point to a driver’s record.

SB 637 – CPUC Safety

To address the gaps in safety management and oversight, SB 637:

  • Requires the CPUC to conduct safety management assessments of gas and electric utilities at least every five years.
  • Requires each of the five commissioners to be assigned a CPUC engineer, who would advise the commissioner on technical matters, including safety. The move provides commissioners with an immediate human resource on complex, technical issues. The change also would help commissioners develop their knowledge in these areas while signaling the importance of direct technical and safety expertise.
  • Specifies that it is the CPUC’s responsibility to implement up-to-date safety management practices and outlines the responsibilities of safety units within the CPUC.
  • Requires the CPUC to hire an outside consultant to audit the CPUC’s internal communications regarding safety, the agency’s decision-making processes as they relate to safety, and whether the importance of safety is reinforced through recognition programs, career development opportunities and other means. A CPUC “safety culture report,” leaked in 2013, said CPUC staff did not believe that management truly considered safety a priority, but merely the “flavor of the month” for work issues.
  • Prohibits the CPUC from impeding safety when drawing up rules and regulations for utilities. For example, the CPUC last fall lifted the requirement for utilities to report whether safety violations involving gas pipelines have occurred. Utilities had called for the change.

SB 698 - Drug- and Alcohol-Impaired Drivers

SB 698 is aimed at drivers who are impaired from a combined use of alcohol and any drug, including marijuana. The bill makes it illegal for anyone to drive with a blood alcohol level of .04 percent and higher, but less than .08 percent, while also being under the influence of drugs, including testing positive for a THC level of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood or more. Drivers found to meet or exceed the thresholds would be cited for an infraction, required to enroll in a drug treatment program and, starting in 2019, also participate in the statewide ignition interlock program.

SB 711 – Fairness and Transparency in Energy Bills

Senate Bill 711 would bring more transparency and fairness to bills by:

  • Making sure that 70 percent of the bill for the average customer is covered by the lower priced, Tier 1 rates, for all winter months by changing the way baseline use is calculated. For example, currently PG&E sets the baseline at roughly 70 percent of average use by customers across the winter season. Calculating the average by that method doesn’t take into account that usage varies from month to month depending on the temperature. The legislation would make sure that more of customers’ bills in the colder months of the winter are covered by the lower rate.
  • Requiring utilities to include the expected cost of the next month’s bill in the current month’s bill so that people can adjust their energy usage or their budgeting in the coming month if their bill is likely to be higher than usual. The information is to be included in bills all year round.
  • Requiring the California Public Utilities Commission to approve the methods that utilities use to estimate bills and require utilities to post those bill estimation methodologies on their websites.

SB 721 - Inspections of Balconies and Other Elevated Exterior Building Features

SB 721 requires that existing apartments and condominiums with balconies, outside stairs and stairwells, and other exterior features that are more than 6 feet off the ground and are built to accommodate people are inspected at least once every five years.

The legislation allows building owners to hire a licensed individual or company to conduct the inspections. The inspection report and proof that recommendations were fulfilled must be filed with local building authorities or appropriate local jurisdictions.

The bill is the latest in a series of efforts to step up oversight of contractors following the 2015 collapse of an apartment balcony in Berkeley that killed six students and severely injured seven others. In September 2016, Governor Brown signed Senator Hill’s SB 465, which required the California Building Standards Commission to consider updating codes and inspections for balconies in new construction. In December 2016, the commission issued new rules to require that contractors obtain an inspector’s sign-off on newly constructed balconies before they are sealed to ensure proper ventilation and quality of construction.

Current law does not require local governments to inspect apartment and multi-unit residential structures for maintenance and safety. The City of Berkeley adopted stricter inspection rules in 2015 in response to the balcony tragedy, and SB 721 is partially modeled on those requirements.

SB 751 - School District Reserve Cap Reform

SB 751 would modify the limit – known as the reserve cap – that is placed on how much school districts can save as “rainy day” money. The bill would reform the reserve cap by:

  • Setting a hard cap of 17 percent for unassigned balances in school districts’ General Fund and their Special Reserve Fund for expenses other than capital outlay projects. The 17 percent represents the minimum amount of reserves that the Government Finance Officers Association recommends local governments to maintain.
  • Modifying the law so it applies only to unassigned balances in districts’ General Fund and Special Reserve Fund for Other Than Capital Outlay. This change is intended to ensure that the cap does not affect money set aside by school districts for such things as emergencies or future large purchases -- such as technology, instructional materials, school buses and the like, or for future obligations such as construction projects, retiree benefits, or self-insurance.
  • Requiring school district boards to set policy on fund balances with a provision requiring districts to annually report on fund balances to their school boards of education – a move that also increases transparency about reserve levels and why they exist.
  • Exempting small school districts, those with fewer than 2,501 average daily attendance, and basic aid districts from the cap. Small districts need higher reserves so that they can contend with sudden changes in cash flow and expenditure – such as a loss of enrollment or unexpected increased needs for mandated programs. Basic aid districts receive no state aid and receive local property tax revenues only twice each year to cover 12 months of expenses.

SB 769 - Four-Year Programs at Community Colleges

SB 769 doubles the size of the state’s pilot program for community colleges that offer baccalaureate degrees in certain professional fields.

Fifteen community colleges districts are currently permitted to offer such degrees under a pilot program that resulted from legislation authored three years ago by then-Senator Marty Block, D-San Diego, and Senator Hill. That bill, SB 850 (2014), also limited the degree program to one per participating district, set a 2023 sunset date for the pilot, and precluded community colleges from offering programs that duplicated those at nearby four-year institutions.

SB 769 enables an additional 15 community college districts to participate, eliminates the sunset date, lifts the one-program-per-district limit, and bars the participating districts from offering a four-year degree program in a certain discipline if there is a California State University or University of California campus within 100 miles that offers the same degree.

SB 793 - Design-Build in Special Districts

SB 793 saves taxpayer dollars by allowing three special districts to use the design-build process on upcoming construction projects. The design-build process involves hiring a single contractor to design and construct a building project – functions often performed by two or more separately contracted entities. Design-build often leads to overall savings and earlier project completion.

The bill affects the Peninsula Health Care District, the Beach Cities Health District in Southern California, and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Counties, cities, schools and many other government entities are already authorized to use the design-build process, but many special districts have not been granted authority.

The Peninsula and Beach Cities districts are embarking on construction projects to provide senior housing, supportive services for developmentally challenged adults, hospice care, and services for developmentally challenged children. The legislation would enable the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District use the design-build for a range of construction projects from visitor centers and other facilities, repairs on district holdings including water well improvements, and habitat restoration.

Senate Joint Resolution 3 National Popular Vote Legislation

Calls upon other states to pass National Popular Vote legislation to ensure that electoral votes for the president of the United States reflect the will of American voters. NPV legislation commits a state to abide by an interstate compact to award the electoral votes of that state to the presidential slate winning the most votes nationwide.

California, nine other states and the District of Columbia have already adopted such legislation (California Assembly Bill 459, 2011, Hill). The other states that have adopted the legislation are Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The National Popular Vote interstate compact would prevail when states possessing a majority of the total possible electoral votes, currently 270 of 538, have adopted such legislation and ratified the compact. The District of Columbia and the 10 states that already have passed National Popular Vote legislation account for 165 electoral votes.