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March 31, 2005                      
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Hema Sareen Mohan at (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – After reviewing 129 bill ideas from within and outside of his district, State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) today announced this year’s winners in his “There Oughta Be A Law” contest.  The annual competition invites Californians to submit ideas for new state legislation.  Three of the five winning entries will first be heard in the Senate April 5, and local contest winners will be traveling to Sacramento to testify on behalf of their proposals. 
The five winning entries propose to require drivers passing tow trucks and emergency crews to move into the next lane or to slow down to a reasonable speed; stop businesses from showing entire debit card numbers on receipts; reduce the California Secretary of State Office’s fees for processing adoption-related documents; establish a program that will allow certain pharmacies to accept and dispense unused prescription drugs; and reduce sales tax paperwork for self-employed individuals and small businesses from quarterly to yearly filings.
“In past years, I’ve selected two or three winners,” said Simitian.  “But there were just so many exceptional proposals this year.  I thought all five of these proposals were worthy.  They represent a wide and interesting range of public concerns—consumer privacy, highway safety, adoption costs, the high price of prescription drugs, and small business burdened by government paperwork.  It’s an eclectic mix.”

  • “Move Over, Slow Down” For Highway Safety (SB 800) – Daniel Frederick Leon, Hayward Tow truck driver Daniel Frederick Leon noticed that drivers who do not slow down when approaching tow trucks or emergency crews endanger the lives of workers on the road and other motorists.  “One night I was called to an accident where the police had blocked off the road.  I suddenly noticed that someone had still managed to drive through the accident scene while I was cleaning up the street.  I could have been killed,” said Leon.  The near-fatal incident, and learning of police officers, tow truck drivers, and other emergency aid workers who have lost their lives while assisting others, prompted Leon to submit this bill idea that will require motorists to change lanes as they approach a stationary emergency vehicle or tow truck.
  • Protection of Debit Card Information (SB 802) – Ron Tomich, Los Gatos While picking up concert tickets that he had ordered on the phone, Ron Tomich noticed that his receipt showed all the digits of his debit/ATM card.  “If I had lost that receipt, someone could have used it to access my checking account,” Tomich said.  His idea proposes stopping businesses from printing more than the last five digits of a debit card number, which is the same protection that credit cards currently receive.
  • Adoption Document Fee Reduction (SB 799) – Michael Breslin and Roxane Baxter, Los Altos While trying to adopt a child from Russia, Michael Breslin and Roxane Baxter found that just the certification of documents by the California Secretary of State’s office cost them more than $1,800, adding to the many thousands of dollars their adoption already cost.  “Our state should recognize the importance of helping families and orphans by making it more affordable to prepare necessary documents.  Other states charge nothing or nominal fees for the same documents,” said Baxter.  Their idea suggests reducing the fees for California State’s certification of adoption-related documents.
  • Prescription Drug Distribution Program (SB 798) –  Josemaria Paterno, Menlo Park Concerned about the increasing cost of medication, Josemaria Paterno, an MD candidate at Stanford Medical School, and a team of his colleagues submitted a proposal to create a program that would allow pharmacies to distribute previously sold, unexpired, and unopened prescription drugs to patients, especially those with low income or severe disabilities.  “Currently many health facilities literally flush perfectly good, unused drugs down the toilet.  This program would ensure that much needed medicine end up in the hands of those who can neither afford nor access it,” said Paterno. 
  • Sales Tax Paperwork Reduction (SB 801) –  Jill Levy, Campbell The final winning entry comes from Jill Levy, a self-employed author and publisher.  Levy found that she was spending countless hours on compiling necessary information for completing sales tax forms.  She suggests allowing self-employed individuals and small businesses the option to pay their annual sales tax through quarterly estimates while doing the paperwork just once a year.  “In the long run, I think this will benefit both taxpayers and the state.  With all the extra time they will save, taxpayers will have more time to spend on their businesses, bringing in more revenue.” 

The winners will have their bill ideas introduced as legislation, have lunch with Senator Simitian at the State Capitol, have the opportunity to testify at a committee hearing on their bill, and also receive a California State flag that has been flown over the Capitol.  “But most importantly,” said Simitian, “winners know that they can individually participate in crafting legislation that will benefit folks throughout the state.”
This marks the fourth year for Simitian’s “There Oughta Be a Law” contest.  During the past three years, six winning entries have been signed into law.