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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

The legislature is in recess until August.

Light-rail no longer illegal in LA’s San Fernando Valley: A.B. 577 from Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last week. The bill repealed a 1990 law that prohibited construction of light rail along a section of the Orange Line, and thus opens up the possibility of replacing the Orange Line BRT with rail. Whether that’s good or bad is up for debate, and Streetsblog has presented arguments both for and against the line’s conversion.

Replacing the car-centric LOS planning metric: Those who’ve been waiting with bated breath to find out what will replace Level of Service (LOS) as a transportation planning metric in California Environmental Quality Act requirements were disappointed when the July 1 deadline came and went without any pronouncements from the Office of Planning and Research (OPR). However, it looks likely that some version of Vehicle Miles Traveled will replace LOS, which has given rise to sprawling development patterns and wide streets unsuitable for walking and bicycling. When OPR does publish its recommendations, there will be a 45-day public comment period, and Streetsblog will provide the details.

Funds for bike and pedestrian projects: The Active Transportation Program, which provides funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects, has logged all the proposals received as of its May 21 deadline. A total of 770 projects applied for the $124.2 million that is available for fiscal year 2014-15. The projects include bicycle and pedestrian plans, bridges, sidewalk and signal improvements, Safe Routes to Schools programs, traffic calming and speed reduction efforts, and a host of large and small infrastructure improvements throughout the state.

Active Transportation Project applications pile up at Caltrans headquarters on May 21.Photo: California Bicycle Coalition

Active Transportation Project applications pile up at Caltrans headquarters on May 21.
Photo: California Bicycle Coalition

Email tips, alerts, press releases, ideas, etc. to melanie@streetsblog.org.

For social media coverage focused on statewide issues, follow Melanie @currymel on Twitter or like our Facebook page here.

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CA Assembly Bill Aims to Delay Cap-and-Trade for Fuels

Delaying cap-and-trade for gasoline wouldn’t amount to noticeable savings for low-income drivers who make long commutes in old gas guzzlers. Photo: Moira Curry

In a last-minute maneuver before the California Legislature’s summer recess, Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno) amended a bill to delay the application of California’s cap-and-trade system to fuels until 2018.

Co-authors of the bill, A.B. 69, include Assemblymembers Cheryl Brown (D-Fontana), Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), Isadore Hall (D-Rancho Dominguez), Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina), Freddie Rodriguez (D-Chino), and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), as well as Senators Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and Norma Torres (D-Chino).

California’s cap-and-trade system is intended to encourage businesses to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by placing a cap on the total GHG they may produce, and then allowing them to buy or sell emission credits, depending on their ability to meet the cap. It is being phased in over time, and until now has only been applied to manufacturing enterprises. The cap is scheduled to apply to the production and transport of transportation fuels starting in January 2015. Perea’s bill would delay that for three years.

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CA Asm. Richard Bloom Talks Budgets, Cap-and-Trade, Streetcars, and More

Last week, Streetsblog sat down with California Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who represents Santa Monica and other West Los Angeles communities. We asked him to talk about the state budget, the cap-and-trade expenditure plan, and funding for transit and housing. Bloom chairs the Subcommittee for Transportation for the California Assembly Budget Committee.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom of West Los Angeles. Photo: City of Santa Monica

Bloom talked about the process for crafting the cap-and-trade compromise, the impacts the new money will have on transportation, the need for more transportation funding, and some local transportation and development issues in his district.

The California state budget was passed by both legislative houses just before its June 15 deadline, and the governor signed it at the end of that week.

Streetsblog: Are you more or less pleased with the final budget and the cap-and-trade expenditure plan?

Bloom: I’m very pleased.

California is still in recovery mode. The most notable thing about the budget is that we’re beginning to provide funds for many of the programs that have been cut over the past years, since 2006 or so, and we’re also beginning to fund new programs.

The most exciting of these, I think, is early childhood education. We’re only chipping off a bit of that, but it’s a beginning, and it shows a way into the future.

Streetsblog: What about the cap-and-trade expenditure plan?

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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

School Zone Safety: S.B. 1151 from Anthony Canella (R-Ceres) would raise fines for traffic infractions within school zones. The bill passed the Assembly Transportation Committee, 14-0, and now goes to the Appropriations Committee.

Vulnerable User Law Jumps Ahead: A.B. 2398 from Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) was withdrawn from the Senate Public Safety Committee because that committee agreed with a recent amendment to lower the limit on maximum fines under the bill. Now it goes straight to Appropriations, where the deadline to get out of that committee is August 15. Session ends August 31.

Hit-and-Run Bills on Track: Two bills from Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) both passed their committees last weekA.B. 47 would create a “yellow alert” system to find hit-and-run perpetrators and A.B. 1532 would automatically suspend a driver’s license for leaving the scene of a crash where someone is hit. A.B. 1532 was also amended to add the possibility charging a of a non-injury hit-and-run as either an infraction or a misdemeanor, but the six-month license suspension remains.

Bicycle Infrastructure Funds From Vehicle Registrations: S.B. 1183 by Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) passed the Assembly Transportation Committee after being amended last week. This bill would allow local agencies to propose a fee of no more than $5 on vehicle registrations to pay for the maintenance of bike paths. The fee would have to be approved by two-thirds of the voters in the districts where it would apply. This week’s amendments include the addition of a sunset date of January 2025 and a requirement to report to the legislature on revenues received and projects supported by the fee. The 10-4 vote moves it to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Protected Bike Lanes: A.B. 1193 from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) was amended and passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee last week.

Email tips, alerts, press releases, ideas, etc. to melanie@streetsblog.org.

For social media coverage focused on state-wide issues, follow Melanie @currymel on Twitter or like our Facebook page.

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Protected Bike Lanes Bill Passes CA Senate Transportation Committee

The “Protected Bikeways Act,” A.B. 1193, passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Thursday on a 10-0 vote, despite opposition from some quarters. The bill must still be approved by the full Senate and Governor Jerry Brown.

A protected bike lane in Temple City. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The proposed legislation, introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would compel Caltrans to create guidelines for protected bike lanes, a type of facility that is not currently allowed under California law.

A second measure in the bill would give local jurisdictions — cities and counties — the freedom to follow Caltrans standards for bicycle infrastructure or to choose some other guidance. Currently all bicycle infrastructure in California must adhere to Caltrans standards, whether it’s built on state highways or local streets. There are a few limited exceptions to this, generally through cumbersome experimental processes, but overall Caltrans’ antiquated standards have limited implementation of infrastructure that has proven safe in other states and other countries.

“This comes down to an issue of local control,” said Ting. “Cities have control over every aspect of their streets except when it comes to bikes.”

Supporters at the hearing included representatives from Napa County, the city of San Jose, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office.

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CA Bills to Crack Down on Hit-and-Run Drivers Sail Through Committees

Two bills focused on addressing hit-and-run crashes, authored by CA Assemblymember Mike Gatto, appear quickly on their way to being passed. A.B. 47, which would create an alert system on California highways to help the public assist police in catching drivers involved in hit-and-run crashes, sailed through the Senate Public Safety Committee Tuesday with a 6-1 vote. A.B. 1532Gatto’s other bill which increases fines and penalties for hit-and-run drivers, passed a separate committee.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto looks on as Damian Kevitt testifies to the Senate Public Safety Committee. Image: CA Senate

The bill has seen a torrent of support from a broad range of constituents, including bicycle and pedestrian advocates and public safety workers. Its next stop is the Senate Appropriations Committee.

At the hearing, Gatto testified that the bill specifies certain criteria that would have to be met before authorities could use the system, to allay concerns that it would be overused. A hit-and-run crash would have to involve a fatality or serious bodily injury, and officials would need at least partial plate numbers and a description of the vehicle.

“We have an apprehension rate in this state of 20 percent,” said Gatto, “so 80 percent of hit-and-run perpetrators never get caught. The city of Denver created a similar system in 2012; at the time they also had a twenty percent apprehension rate, and now they have a 76 percent rate of apprehension.”

“This is a smart way to make sure we can catch the people who commit the most heinous and cowardly accidents on the road with a deadly weapon—because vehicles are deadly weapons,” he said.

Damian Kevitt, a hit-and-run victim who now leads the “Finish the Ride” movement in Southern California, urged Senators to vote for the bill. He described the gruesome crash that left him for dead on the freeway a year ago, and called his recovery a “testimony to modern medicine.”

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CA Senate Committee to Consider Protected Bike Lanes Bill Tomorrow

A key hearing will be held in Sacramento tomorrow on legislation that would pave the way for more California cities to build protected bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks.”

Legislation by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-SF) aims to make protected bike lanes, such as this one in Long Beach, more common throughout California. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

Currently the California Highway Design Manual does not allow protected bike lanes, and state law requires local jurisdictions to follow Caltrans specifications for bicycle facilities on all roads, not just state-controlled highways. No such requirement exists for any other type of street infrastucture — just bicycle facilities.

A.B. 1193, the “Safe Routes for Urban Cyclists,” from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would require Caltrans to develop standards for bike lanes that are physically separated from motor traffic. At the same time, the bill would permit cities to opt out of using Caltrans specifications for bike facilities on local streets and roads.

The legislation follows the spirit of a recommendation from the recent State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) report on Caltrans that Caltrans “support, or propose if no bill is forthcoming, legislation to end the archaic practice of imposing state rules on local streets for bicycle facilities.”

Caltrans recently complied with another SSTI recommendation when it endorsed design guidelines for bicycle infrastructure from the National Association of City Transportation Officials. However, while that endorsement adds some tools to the toolkit for planners, the NACTO guidelines are not yet included of the California Highway Design Manual, which local jurisdictions are still bound to.

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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

Vulnerable Users Bill Watered Down: In its slog through the legislative process, AB 2398 from Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) was amended to lower the maximum fine on a conviction for causing bodily injury to a special class of “vulnerable road users” from $1,000 to $300.

The Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing had balked at the size of the $1,000 fine, which could end up costing more than $4,000 after surcharges and fees are added. As amended, the fines under the bill would now range from $220 to $300, resulting in total fines between $1,033 and $1,361. The amended legislation would still be an increase over current fines.

Another amendment added Segway and wheelchair users to the definition of “vulnerable users,” which already includes bicyclists, pedestrians, highway workers, horseback riders, and drivers of farm equipment.

Protected Bike Lane Bill Adds “Freedom from Caltrans” Clause: AB 1193 from Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) would require Caltrans to develop standards for protected bike lanes so that local jurisdictions can plan and build them with the agency’s blessing. An amendment published this week changed a single word — from “shall” to “may”– opening up new possibilities for “all city, county, regional, and other local agencies responsible for the development or operation of bikeways or roadways where bicycle travel is permitted.”

The change in verbage means cities would no longer be required to use Caltrans’ criteria when designing bicycle facilities. Bicycling advocates and planners have long argued that it’s inconsistent to require planners and engineers to adhere to Caltrans standards for bike facilities, but not other roadway features on local streets and roads.

This bill will be considered in committee on Tuesday. Expect to hear more about it soon.

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CA Assembly Bill Would Create Alert System For Hit-and-Run Crashes

Police in Orange in Southern California released this picture of a truck driven by a hit-and-run perpetrator two weeks ago. With AB 47, there would be a much higher chance drivers like this one are caught. Photo: NBC4

It is too common a story. A family is crossing the street or some friends are bicycling along when a negligent car driver changes their lives forever. While the victims lie wounded in the street, the driver flees and is never heard from again. Advocates for safe streets, victims of hit-and-run crashes, and their friends and family say that there are not enough resources or legal protections for victims.

Asm. Gatto

Assemblymember Mike Gatto

One California Assemblymember has vowed to change that.

Assembly Bill 47, a heavily amended version of legislation re-introduced this week by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-LA), would create a statewide “yellow alert system” modeled after the Medina Alert system, which was created in Denver but is now a statewide program in Colorado.

The system would require that Caltrans and other highway owners use electronic signage, radio, and other available media to broadcast information about vehicles suspected in hit-and-run crashes. Unlike alerts issued over TV news, the yellow alerts would enlist drivers and other road users to spot hit- and-run drivers right away.

Basically, the bill would create an “Amber Alert” system similar to what is used when a child is kidnapped to help catch hit-and-run drivers.

“These are crimes which, by their nature, occur at a high rate of speed and with clear means for fleeing the scene,” said Gatto.  “The public is almost always needed to catch those who leave fellow citizens dying on the side of the road, and AB 47 will allow us to do so promptly, before the perpetrator can get away and cover up the evidence.”

Last year, Gatto authored AB 184, which doubled the statute of limitations on prosecuting hit-and-run drivers.  This year, he also introduced AB 1532, which would require mandatory license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run involving another person.

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Deal Reached on CA’s Cap-and-Trade Spending Plan

Earlier this evening, the bicameral Budget Conference Committee  approved a compromise between state legislators and Governor Brown on how to spend $850 million in revenues from the state’s cap-and-trade system for the next fiscal year.

The new plan largely stuck to the Governor’s original proposal for the first year of the expenditure plan, but it adds set-asides for transit and affordable housing, two important parts of the Senate’s proposal. The compromise also incorporates an allocation method for funding in future years.

Despite Republican opposition, California High Speed Rail will still receive one-quarter of the funds generated by the state’s Cap and Trade Program.

The compromise proposal sets aside $250 million for high-speed rail, which is what the Governor proposed, but future year allocations for the bullet train would be 25 percent rather than the 33 percent he requested. The Senate’s proposal called for 15 percent allocated to high speed rail.

The agreement would split the $50 million Brown proposed for intercity rail, giving half to transit capital and construction costs and dividing the other half between transit operations and intercity rail. Future revenue streams would give 5 percent to each of the three categories, giving transit a solid, predictable source of funding for at least the next five years.

Brown’s original proposal had no set aside for local transit, but the Senate, under the leadership of Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), had countered the governor’s plan by calling for $200 million for transit operating and capital expenses.

Steinberg’s plan called for 20 percent of cap-and-trade funds to be spent on affordable housing near transit and sustainable communities planning. This would have amounted to about $170 million the first year. The current agreement would give this category of projects — which could include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and planning — about $130 million in the first year, with future allocations at 20 percent.

“This plan is good for California,” said committee co-chair Mark Leno (D- San Francisco). “With this proposal we will continue to not only lead the state but also the nation on this important issue of greenhouse gas emission reduction, when time is running out.”

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