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You might not know it with all the attention focused on the state budget, but your elected officials in the state Legislature are at work on a raft of bills large and small that would do everything from give wildfire tax breaks to protect spiny lobsters.
Here’s a quick rundown from Sacramento of what your San Diego-area elected officials are up to right now:
- Assemblyman Joel Andersen has a bill that would give homeowners affected by the 2003 wildfires in San Diego County more time to replace their fire-destroyed property. Currently, people with homes substantially damaged by natural disasters have five years to find and buy a replacement home to keep paying the same property tax. Today, houses of similar value come with much higher property taxes.
The bill would extend the timeframe to seven years. Finding a house or rebuilding is an intricate process that takes too much time, according to the assemblyman, and the bill would give those affected extra help. Less than 10 taxpayers a year might benefit from the bill, according to legislative analysts, so the question comes up: Should the state extend a tax benefit to such a small group of San Diego taxpayers?
- Assemblyman Marty Block wants a new state university in the San Diego area. He has authored a bill that would require the chancellor of the California State University to conduct a study on the feasibility of a new campus in Chula Vista.
There are tens of thousands of students in the area turned away from impacted schools like San Diego State that could benefit from a new campus, according to the author’s office. But, with the state cutting higher education by about 10 percent, it seems like a difficult time to propose a new state university.
- Five bills dealing with the future of the Sacramento Delta, a major San Diego water source, will be getting close attention in the Legislature.
The bills were stopped on the house floors during budget deliberations and redirected to a conference committee. There, they will be addressed together in depth. The bills included proposals for lowering water use in the state, establishing a wildlife conservancy in the delta area, and a comprehensive plan for the delta’s future — but most of that has been crossed out. The language that remains solely declares legislative intent to look into the delta’s fate. The details of the committee — its size, when it will meet and who will be on it — have not been set.
The new laws would have impact on water all over the state: limits on its use, its price, and, especially in Southern California, the way we get it. Proposals for a canal to get water from the delta to Southern California have been floating around for years on the lips of water retailers, cities and counties, and, recently, the governor. He has stated he would support building the canal. His Delta Vision Strategic Plan, completed last year, contains suggestions for a “dual-conveyance system” for carrying water down the Sacramento River and down a canal. The canal will likely be discussed in the committee.
- While those await attention, other water bills authored by San Diego area legislators wind their way through the Legislature. Sen. Denise Ducheny has co-authored a bill that would require water suppliers to create an efficient water resources management plan to reduce residential water use or increase efficiency. Assemblywoman Mary Salas has a bill that would create a new conservancy in the Delta to monitor its ecological and economic health.
- Salas is also working on the school front. She wants to make marching band an equivalent alternative to physical education. She has a bill that would exempt high school students from PE if they are in other school programs deemed to require equal amounts of physical activity: marching band, cheerleading, JROTC, and others.
The bill is sponsored by the San Diego Unified School District. The school district found that students in marching band performed better on a physical fitness test than those that were in PE. (Test results from 9th grade students were compared to their results in 7th grade). However, some JROTC students did not perform better than those in PE. There is an argument that it would save money to allow kids to participate in one instead of both because the kids wouldn’t have to stay another period to do both and teachers would not have to be trained to “team teach” the courses. Opponents say PE standards would go down.
Salas has another bill that would remove the landownership requirement for serving on the board of directors in the South Bay Irrigation District in Chula Vista.
- Assemblyman Martin Garrick and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey share a bill that tries to protect Tri-City Medical Center in North County from possible closure. The bill is intended to provide more information to the state health planning office about the ability of hospital districts to find money for required seismic improvements. The Tri-City hospital has tried three times to raise bond money to pay for a “seismic retrofit” required by law, but hasn’t been able to come up with enough. The bill would essentially allow the hospital to meet deadlines that would keep it open until it can raise money for the retrofit or get its buildings re-classified as more earthquake-proof.
- Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña has a bill that would make lobster fisherman pay more for a permit with the extra money to be used for conservation of the “spiny lobster.” The lobster lives mainly in the waters between Santa Barbara and Mexico so some fishing off San Diego would be affected.
Correction: The original version of this post described a bill from Martin Garrick that would’ve added a second grand jury in San Diego County. However, that bill died in 2008 and shouldn’t have been included in the post. We regret the error.