Governor Newsom Signs Final Bills by Senator Jerry Hill
For Immediate Release – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Governor Newsom Signs Bill by Senator Jerry Hill to Strengthen State’s “Dig Safe” Board and the Law on Safe Excavation
Governor Also Signs Hill Legislation to Allow Stanford’s Long-Term Green Energy Contracts to Count Toward the Renewables Portfolio Standard Program
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom approved two bills by state Senator Jerry Hill on Tuesday and capped the Peninsula lawmaker’s 12 years in the Legislature by signing into law measures that support safer excavations and Stanford’s renewable energy efforts.
“I am honored that in such a challenging year the Governor signed the legislation I’ve authored to help save lives and to support safe, reliable and renewable energy in California,” said state Senator Hill, who represents communities on the greater Peninsula stretching from the biotech hub in South San Francisco and neighboring Brisbane, to Mountain View and Sunnyvale in Silicon Valley.
SB 865 builds on Senator Hill’s Dig Safe Act of 2016, which established the California Underground Facilities Safe Excavation Board to help make projects safer when they involve digging and similar work that could rupture underground gaslines and pipes. A series of deadly dig-ins spurred the original bill. Further incidents – including a project that caused a gas leak and explosion killing a SoCalGas worker and injuring 15 other people in July 2019 – prompted Senator Hill to revisit the issue.
SB 865 enhances cooperation and communication between excavators and gasline operators. It also strengthens communication and requires increased data sharing between key stakeholders, such as the regional notification centers in the 811 Call-Before-You-Dig program, and the board. SB 865 takes effect January 1, 2021, and calls for further changes over the next three years. They include moving the board, which also is to be recognized as the “Dig Safe Board,” from the state Fire Marshal’s Office to the Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety within the Natural Resources Agency by January 1, 2022. Starting January 1, 2023, SB 865 requires operators of subsurface infrastructure to map all new installations using a geographic information system and to maintain and update those records.
SB 702 changes a provision of the California Renewables Portfolio Standard statute so that the long-term wholesale contracts for renewable energy held by Stanford will continue to count toward the RPS obligation of the university’s retail seller.
Existing law allows a customer, such as Stanford University, to directly procure renewable resources and to have those RPS credits count for the customer’s retail seller. Typically, however, long-term wholesale renewable energy contracts are held by a retail seller or electric service provider, not the customer. The arrangement Stanford currently pursues would no longer be permitted next year, when the statute on RPS long-term contracts is set to change. However, SB 702 specifically allows Stanford, the only entity known to exercise the arrangement allowed by current law, to continue its practice.
The 2020 bills by Senator Hill that Governor Newsom signed this summer also focus on safety, health, energy and accountability:
SB 1159 – Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19. SB 1159 expands access to workers’ compensation and makes it easier for first responders, health care workers and people who test positive due to an outbreak at work to get the support they need, including necessary medical care and wage replacement benefits. SB 1159 creates a rebuttable presumption for front line workers — health care workers, firefighters and peace officers. Creating a presumption removes burdens of access to workers’ compensation for individuals who most likely became infected at work. The bill also establishes a rebuttable presumption when there is a workplace outbreak over a 14-day period. As an urgency bill, SB 1159 took effect when the Governor signed it on September 17.
SB 793 – Flavored Tobacco Products. As landmark legislation, SB 793 prohibits store sales of flavored e-cigarettes, e-hookahs and other e-devices, menthol cigarettes, non-premium flavored cigars and cigarillos, and other flavored smokable, vapable and smokeless tobacco products. The new law, scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2021, imposes the toughest state restrictions in the country thus far on the sales of flavored tobacco products.
SB 350 – The Golden State Energy Act. The Golden State Energy Act holds PG&E accountable for achieving the reforms in practices and operations that have been required by law with PG&E’s emergence from bankruptcy. The Act provides California a failsafe by creating a framework for Golden State Energy, a nonprofit public benefit corporation, to step in and take over if PG&E does not transform as required by Assembly Bill 1054 (2019 Holden). Governor Newsom signed SB 350 in June 2020, marking a decade of effort by Senator Hill to pass bills to reform PG&E and the agency responsible for regulating California’s public utilities. A convicted felon, PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January 2019 after its equipment ignited a series of deadly wildfires. The conflagrations of 2017 and 2018 in Northern California were the latest disasters caused by PG&E. Others include the September 2010 explosion of a PG&E natural gas pipeline that killed eight people and leveled a neighborhood in San Bruno, one of the cities Senator Hill represents. The Golden State Energy Act takes effect on January 1, 2021.
SB 38 – Aiding All-Volunteer Fire Departments. SB 38 enables all-volunteer fire departments to hang onto the money they earn in pancake breakfasts, T-shirt sales and other efforts to raise cash to help fund their operations. The legislation provides a sales tax exemption on proceeds from all-volunteer fire departments’ fundraising sales until January 1, 2026. Current law provides the exemption only until January 1, 2021.
In all, 154 bills authored by Jerry Hill during his four years as an assemblymember and eight years as a senator have been signed into law. The list of his legislative accomplishments is available here.
“My thanks go to all the people who shared their experiences – and in many cases relived their painful memories to provide vital testimony in Capitol hearings – so that we could pass legislation to save lives, make our state safer, and shield Californians from the heartbreak of preventable tragedies,” Senator Hill said.
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