Skip to content

March 17, 2003

For More Information, Contact:
Daryl Savage at (650) 688-6384


PALO ALTO – There actually ‘oughta be’ several new laws, if the record number of entries for Assemblyman Joe Simitian’s annual contest is any indication. More than 100 people submitted their ideas to put new laws on the books.

Simitian announced today three winners in his second annual “There Oughta Be A Law” contest. Last year, the three winners in Simitian’s contest, designed to solicit legislative proposals from his constitutents, were so successful that their ideas were all signed into law.

Once again this year, it was up to Simitian to choose which suggestions to propose for new legislation. “It was much more difficult than I imagined to narrow the field down to just a few,” he said.  “But after a personal review of each entry, I chose three that have a real shot of going to the Governor to sign,” he said.

One of Simitian’s contest winners was the suggestion of Michael Hodos of Palo Alto. Hodos would like to see a law that enables California drivers who receive a moving violation in another state to be allowed to attend traffic school in this state so that the citation can be masked from their record. There is currently no mechanism for a Californian to do this and Hodos wants to see a change in the law.

Hodos came up with the idea after getting cited with what he calls a “questionable” ticket while vacationing in New Hampshire.

Up until then, Hodos’ 45-year-old driving record was flawless. “I was driving in Henniker, New Hampshire when I was stopped by the police for failure to yield,” Hodos said.

Although he didn’t completely agree with the reason for the ticket, he promptly paid the $71 fine. But Hodos was much more interested in getting the ticket off his spotless record, so he inquired about traffic school. It was then he found out he couldn’t attend. “Traffic school in New Hampshire is only for habitual offenders, so I didn’t qualify,” Hodos said.

He had conversations with the police department, the District Attorney’s office and other law enforcement officials in New Hampshire. “No one could really help me,” Hodos said. In addition, this process presented a tremendous financial and time burden. He’s hoping his suggestion for the new law will prevent others from going what he went through.

The second winning entry in Simitian’s “There Oughta Be A Law” contest was submitted by Charles Williams of Cupertino.

Williams wants to see an allowance made to obstruct the rear license plate on certain vehicles for the purpose of carrying wheelchair lifts for disabled passengers.

Williams’ 17-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy and requires a wheelchair. “We got Molly an electric wheelchair just before she entered middle school. The problem was the chair was too heavy. It weighed more than 250 pounds and we couldn’t transport it,” Williams said.

To solve the problem, Williams installed lifts on his truck to carry the chair; but the lifts block the license plate, and that is illegal. “We spent a lot of time figuring out how to legally carry the wheelchair on the back of the truck,” Williams said. He talked to the DMV, the CHP and many legislators, but no one offered a solution.

“Then I talked to Mr. Simitian. He immediately understood the importance of this – not just for Molly, but for all the disabled people in California,” Williams said.

The final suggestion for a new law came from San Carlos resident Donna Lera. As a substance abuse counselor, she knows first-hand how the combination of alcohol and unsupervised kids can cause trouble.

Lera proposed a bill that would allow criminal prosecution (misdemeanor) of parents who knowingly allow minors to consume alcohol in their home, when that alcohol consumption results in a car accident.

“Parents need to be held responsible for what goes on in their home. Basically, if a minor is drunk, then the adult who supplied the alcohol should be punished,” Lera said.

Lera serves on the Palo Alto Community Substance Abuse Council, a group started last October to address the growing concern about the misuse of alcohol and drugs in the community by supporting students and their parents.

“It was difficult to choose the final three, Simitian said. “Almost everyone who entered provided thoughtful, meaningful ideas. This shows that just one person really can make a difference,” he said. Each contestant was asked to explain what the bill would do, the need for the bill, any financial impacts and probable support and opposition.

The three winners have already had their proposals introduced as Assembly Bills.  AB 1302 (Hodos), AB 1303 (Williams) and AB 1301 (Lera). Each winner is also invited to Sacramento to testify on the need for the law they’ve proposed, have lunch with Simitian and receive a state flag which has been flown over the Capitol.