Legislators want to unclog traffic, schools

first_imgSACRAMENTO – Following a year in which most legislative efforts were overshadowed or dampened by the special election, local lawmakers plan to focus in 2006 on traffic, schools and other issues that matter to average Californians. Priorities for San Fernando Valley legislators include building a new car-pool lane on the San Diego Freeway; breaking up the Los Angeles Unified School District; placing a moratorium on the death penalty; and cracking down on sex offenders. The Legislature will reconvene Wednesday, and one of the first orders of business could be a vote on fast-tracking the San Diego Freeway project – an effort that was stymied when Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, adjourned the upper house for the year before the bill and a handful of other late measures could be heard. “We’re hoping when session starts up again, they can take up the bill,” said Crystal Strait, an aide to Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, a coauthor of the San Diego Freeway bill. “We are just as anxious as everyone to get that project moving.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake State Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, and his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, plan to focus on Jessica’s Law, a sweeping effort to toughen the state’s sex-offender laws. Even as they try to get the Legislature to approve the measure – which Schwarzenegger supports – they are collecting signatures to place it on the November 2006 ballot. Democrats are looking at crafting their own version of the bill, Sen. Runner said. “We’ll see what their bill looks like, but we don’t believe it will be sufficient to stop our program of taking this to the voters for next November,” he said. The proposed law is named for a girl who was sexually assaulted and murdered by a registered sex offender in Florida. Its provisions include lifetime global-positioning satellite tracking of sex offenders; increased penalties and enforcement against child pornography; and extension of parole time for sex offenders. Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge, plans to introduce a bill in January to break up Los Angeles Unified – the nation’s second-largest school district, with 727,000 students – into at least 15 smaller districts. The bill states that “Any unified school district enrolling at least 500,000 pupils on January 1, 2006, shall be reorganized by 2010 into several smaller districts with each having an enrollment of no more than 50,000 pupils.” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is trying to establish control over the district, said he is open to studying the proposal, while district Superintendent Roy Romer has resisted efforts to split it up, even as he worked to decentralize the district’s massive bureaucracy. Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, has already introduced a bill to place a two-year moratorium on the death penalty, and it will come up for a hearing in the Assembly Public Safety committee Jan. 10. Koretz wants a temporary halt in executions so that a commission that was established several years ago, but just recently obtained sufficient funding, can study the criminal justice system and reasons why innocent people have ended up on Death Row. Koretz believes that the state needs to make improvements to its justice system to ensure that the innocent are not executed before the death penalty should be allowed to continue. “Particularly with the advent of DNA, there are a number of people who looked to have solid cases against them who have wound up proven to be innocent,” Koretz said. “Now we can look back and say what are the patterns that get them there, what are the elements (in the justice system) that are most unreliable, and recommend some reforms.” If enacted, the bill would create a moratorium lasting from Jan. 1, 2007, to Jan. 1, 2009. That, however, will not be soon enough to stop the state’s next scheduled execution, of triple murderer Clarence Ray Allen, on Jan. 17, 2006, at San Quentin State Prison. The state currently has more than 640 inmates on Death Row, including more than 20 who are near the final stages of their appeals. Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, frustrated by this year’s special election, plans to work on a bill that would allow governors to call ballot measure special elections only for emergency purposes. “This would require bipartisan support, but I think most Californians agree special elections should only be used for an emergency – a fiscal emergency or natural disaster,” Frommer said. He also plans to continue working on efforts to make pharmaceutical drugs cheaper for low-income Californians. Voters rejected two competing drug measures on the special-election ballot, but Frommer intends to try to find middle ground between the pharmaceutical industry and consumer groups, who backed the competing measures. Levine also plans to introduce a bill to encourage municipal utilities to improve efforts at energy efficiency. The state already provides incentives for the private investor-owned utilities to encourage customers to save energy, but does not provide similar incentives for government-owned utilities, Strait said. Levine is also planning a bill aimed at discouraging discrimination against gay and lesbian students in public schools, including ways to show teachers how to prevent bullying. Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, plans to once again introduce a bill to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Cedillo has gotten such a bill through the Legislature twice, only to have Schwarzenegger veto it both times. Cedillo told The Sacramento Bee recently that he believes the political climate has shifted, with Schwarzenegger still stinging from his special-election defeat and signaling a shift toward more centrist policies. But a spokesman for the governor said he remains opposed to the bill. Harrison Sheppard, (916) 446-6723 [email protected] KEY DATES The Legislature will reconvene Wednesday. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will deliver his State of the State address Thursday and will release his proposed budget for fiscal 2006-07 on Jan. 10. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more