Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, worked on legislation in 2016 to help California better manage its precious resources, modernize its government and become a 21st century model of democracy, opportunity and justice. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the following bills into law.
Helping Small Businesses
Small businesses are the backbone of California’s economy. That’s why California created the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program more than 40 years ago. The program helps make private loans available to small businesses that can’t qualify for regular bank loans by backing them up with state money. Since it started, it has guaranteed more than 30,000 loans. This is especially helpful in economically distressed areas, where small business loans are tougher to obtain. This year, Sen. Hertzberg helped expand this program by passing legislation (SB 936) adopting the federal standard for leveraging the financing, meaning less state money is needed to guarantee the loans and that means the state can back more private loans with the money it has. For more information about the loans or how to apply for them, visit the website for the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, known as I-Bank, or contact Sen. Hertzberg's office.
Pushing Cleanup, and Redevelopment, of Hazardous Waste Sites
California has 90,000 contaminated properties. Many are in urban areas, where they depress values of surrounding property and create blight. One way to improve communities and generate economic activity is to encourage the development of these hazardous waste sites. That’s why Sen. Hertzberg passed legislation (SB 820) this year that allows purchasers of contaminated lots to negotiate a cleanup plan with the state in exchange for liability protection from damages associated with the original contamination that they had no role in. For example, the city of Carson is working to redevelop a 157-acre site once used as a landfill into a regional shopping destination. My legislation will help the city attract developers after initial remediation and spur economic development.
Making Voting More Convenient and Modern
Doesn’t it seem ludicrous that in 2016 people are forced to cast a ballot on a single day at a single location for an election? You can stream a movie over the internet or deposit a check with your phone at any time, but we still hold elections like it’s 1950. That’s going to change in coming elections, thanks to legislation (SB 450) Sen. Hertzberg worked on with Sen. Ben Allen. Under the new system, every voter will be mailed a vote-by-mail ballot, vote centers will replace neighborhood polling places and voting for an election will take place for 10 days, which covers two weekends, preceding the election date. That will make it easier, and more convenient, for busy Californians to participate and improve voter turnout.
Punishing Ransomware as a Serious Crime
In February, a ransomware attack on the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center jeopardized patient care and prompted the hospital to pay a $17,000 ransom in bitcoin to restore access to its computer system. Unfortunately, that was not one isolated incident. This year, ransomware attacks have skyrocketed and become increasingly sophisticated, hitting hospitals, health care organizations and other major institutions. That’s why Sen. Hertzberg worked with Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to pass legislation (SB 1137) clarifying that infecting computers with ransomware is a form of extortion and that a person engaged in the activity could be convicted of a felony and imprisoned up to four years.
Moving Ahead with Creating an Early Earthquake Warning System
Earthquake science is advancing rapidly, and now we know California is at great risk of experiencing a major earthquake within the next 30 years. While Japan, Mexico and other countries have put into place early earthquake warning systems to give their residents a few seconds warning before a temblor hits, California has lagged behind on developing one because it has tried to fund it privately. Legislation (SB 494) I worked on with Sen. Jerry Hill creates the California Earthquake Safety Fund to be used for the state to fund seismic safety and the early warning system. Gov. Jerry Brown has directed $10 million to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) in the 2016-17 state budget to further expand the state's earthquake early warning system prototype, called ShakeAlert. Sen. Hertzberg hopes this can be up and running – and saving lives – within a few years.
Safeguarding the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility
The Aliso Canyon gas leak began on Oct. 23, 2015 and continued for almost four months. As a result, nearly 100,000 tons of methane was released into the skies above the San Fernando Valley. The leak sickened thousands of residents of Porter Ranch and surrounding communities and more than 8,000 families were forced to leave their homes. Legislation that Sen. Hertzberg worked on with Sen. Fran Pavley (SB 380) and was enacted in May ensures that no new injections of gas into the storage facility can take place until all wells have undergone testing to detect leaks, any wells to be used to resume injections must undergo four additional tests of their structural integrity and be certified as safe, and that wells that have not been fully tested and certified must be temporarily plugged and isolated from the facility.
Upgrading California’s Website Providing Campaign Finance and Lobbying Information
Transparency is crucial to a vibrant democracy. California was once at the forefront of providing transparency, when it launched its Cal-Access website in 2000 so voters could find campaign finance and lobbying disclosures online. But it has not been significantly changed or upgraded since, and it is now an antiquated, user unfriendly system that is unstable and prone to outages. Sen. Hertzberg passed legislation (SB 1349) to overhaul the system and use the latest technology to make it quick and easy to search. Separately, Sen. Hertzberg pursued funding through the budget process, and the 2016-17 budget signed by the governor includes $1.8 million for the Secretary of State to advance this project.
Improving Accountability and Oversight of Tax Checkoffs
In December 2015, Sen. Hertzberg held a legislative hearing in which he learned that the tax checkoff contributions that people designate on their state tax returns could take years to reach the intended recipient and sometimes money that wasn’t spent reverted to the state general fund, instead of going to the intended program. As a result, he authored legislation (SB 1476) to improve accountability and transparency of tax checkoff contributions. In particular, the measure requires the donations to be continuously appropriated to the administering agency and that the administering agency post online the process for awarding the money, how program funds are awarded and how much is spent on administration.
Speeding Up Traffic Amnesty
Hundreds of thousands of struggling Californians have been caught in a difficult – and entirely unfair -- situation when receiving traffic tickets with fines and fees running hundreds of dollars they can’t afford to pay. A simple, unpaid traffic ticket led many to lose their driver’s licenses and face even greater sanctions, turning their lives upside down. Sen. Hertzberg addressed this problem with legislation in 2015 (SB 405) that helped establish a traffic amnesty program that allowed people to talk to a judge if they want to before paying fines, restores driver’s licenses to those with a payment plan and reduces exorbitant fee debts by taking a person’s income into account.In the first nine months of that program, more than 175,000 Californians have received amnesty fine and fee reductions and more than 153,000 Californians have had their suspended driver’s licenses reinstated. But some courts have been slow to respond to amnesty requests, so Sen. Hertzberg authored legislation in 2016 (SB 881) to require timely responses and all requests made by March 31, 2017 to be honored.