New Laws to Protect Water, Assist Public to Take Effect

Measures authored by Sen. Hertzberg become law Jan. 1

December 23, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Crucial new laws authored by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, that will help better protect California’s water systems from earthquakes and ensure state taxpayers get prompt assistance and refunds when they are overcharged will take effect on Jan. 1.

Other legislation carried by Hertzberg will help ensure low-income Californians get legal assistance and require local governments to make public the types of data they are collecting. A full listing of Hertzberg’s enacted bills is below.

“Water is a precious resource in California, and it’s imperative that we make sure our waterways are earthquake safe, and if not, take the proper steps to protect them,” Hertzberg said. “Senate Bill 664 aims to do that with important new reporting requirements for water officials.” 

Aside from protecting water and improving government disclosure, Hertzberg has focused on providing Californians greater access to justice by enacting a traffic amnesty program, encouraging lawyers to work in public-interest law and making permanent a tax advocacy program.   

“Every Californian deserves access to justice and fair treatment, regardless of their income level or background, and that’s what these new laws will help deliver,” Hertzberg said.  

Hertzberg’s landmark measure, SB 405, which along with the Gov. Jerry Brown’s SB 85 established a new traffic amnesty program, became law on Oct. 1. 

New laws taking effect on Jan. 1 are summarized below with links to additional background, including bill language and legislative analyses.  

·         SB 134 – Public Interest Attorney Loan Forgiveness

In an effort to help ensure low-income Californians have greater access to equal justice, this bill allows the use of certain unclaimed funds to help pay off loans for attorneys practicing public-interest law.

·         SB 239 – Contracts for Fire Protection

This proposal will ensure residents and public officials have an opportunity to examine plans, costs and other financial estimates before local governments provide new or extended fire-protection services. 

·         SB 272 – Local Government Data

Local governments will now create an inventory of their key data-keeping systems, make that catalog publicly available online and list the types of data collected by those systems. Cyber-security systems and infrastructure-control systems are exempted.

·         SB 540 – Taxpayer Advocate  

Makes permanent a soon-to-expire taxpayer-advocate program to help ensure taxpayers who are overcharged by the state Franchise Tax Board can receive assistance and refunds.

·         SB 621 – Mental Health and Public Safety 

This measure clarifies that counties can apply for Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grant funds to pay for diversion programs that reduce recidivism of non-violent mentally ill offenders.

·         SB 664 – Earthquake Preparedness for Water Infrastructure

Regional water-management officials will now assess the vulnerability of their water systems to an earthquake and publicly report that assessment as well as any mitigation plans.

·         SB 697 – Accountability Act

This good-government bill will increase accountability and transparency in the Public Utilities Commission.

Legislation passed in 2015 that has already become law:

·         SB 405 – Driving Down Debt 

Citing the loss of the ability to drive as a threat to economic security – especially among working residents – this plan will improve court access by eliminating the requirement that all fines and penalties be paid before the driver can get a court hearing. The measure took effect on Oct. 1. 

Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at  After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at


Media Contact:

Andrew LaMar

Communications Director

Senator Robert M. Hertzberg

State Capitol, Room 4038

Sacramento, CA 95814


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