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Silicon Valley state Sen. Joe Simitian hopes he’s dead-wrong on high-speed rail.
Ten years ago, he enthusiastically co-authored a bill to put the bullet train on the ballot. On Friday, after years leading intense oversight hearings on the polarizing $69 billion plan, he stunned listeners on the Senate floor and voted against the start of construction—nearly killing the project altogether.read more ...
In an editorial, the San Jose Mercury News said:
Death and injuries from traffic accidents have plummeted in California, a trend tied to the 2008 law that bans gabbing on handheld cellphones while driving. Memo to all those drivers still yakking away: Wake up. Distracted driving can kill.
The number of deaths caused by driving while chattering on handheld cellphones dropped by half in the two years after the law took effect compared with the two years before, according to a study released by the state Office of Traffic Safety. That dramatic improvement should persuade 41 other states to enact similar laws. The rest already have.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, take a bow. He pushed the bill until his reluctant colleagues agreed to pass it. Credit also goes to the California Highway Patrol and local police throughout the state for aggressively enforcing the ban. They seem to have wholeheartedly embraced it, probably because they have to deal with the heartbreak of fatal accidents.read more ...
According to a study announced Monday by the state Office of Traffic Safety, since a state law forbidding the use of handheld phones on the road went into effect in 2008, the number of traffic deaths in California declined by 22 percent. With fewer drivers yakking into handheld phones, the death-by-cellphone rate dropped an even more stunning 47 percent.
“Those are huge numbers,” said Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, author of the bill whose outcome the study tracked, while taking a (hands-free) victory lap after the announcement.
During a two-year period after the law was implemented, there were 53 deaths caused by drivers holding cellphones, compared with 100 in the two years before the law took effect. This came as total accidents and fatalities were down overall for reasons as varied as more cars having air bags.
“The drop in collisions was the biggest, single, year-to-year drop in the history of the state since the CHP began keeping the data,” Simitian said.read more ...
State Senator Joe Simitian of California, who succeeded in getting a law passed in 2006 that bans drivers there from talking on a hand-held phone, called the board’s recommendation “a wake-up call about the dangers of distracted driving.”
Yet, he also said he doubted it would achieve the desired result because it was unlikely that legislators in California or elsewhere would be able to pass such a ban. Mr. Simitian noted that he spent five years trying to push a ban on hand-held devices, and faced intense opposition from the phone industry.
“It’s a political nonstarter,” he said, adding that he would not attempt to propose a total ban on drivers using their devices. “I don’t believe you’ll see such a ban in my lifetime.” For all his skepticism, though, he acknowledged that political winds could shift. “A decade ago, people didn’t think we’d have a hands-free law in California. Only time will tell.”read more ...
Texting, talking and tweeting behind the wheel - even using hands-free devices - should be banned, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended Tuesday, but any such prohibition in California seems far down the road.
While state law enforcement and traffic safety officials agreed with the recommendation, the state’s main champion of cell phone regulations for drivers said legislation imposing a ban “would be a nonstarter politically.”
“The notion of an outright ban is hard to imagine,” said state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and author of three laws restricting the use of cell phones by drivers. “I don’t predict it to happen in my lifetime. But then, a decade ago, I couldn’t even get a hands-free bill out of the Legislature.”
Simitian said he would continue to press for increased penalties for violating the bans on handheld phones and texting, and for stepped-up enforcement.
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Gov. Jerry Brown probably made more good than bad decisions on various bills this fall. But it was infuriating to see him veto Sen. Joe Simitian’s bill requiring full disclosure to women whose mammograms may be ineffective.
It was so simple, so certain to save lives that we could not imagine a veto. But the medical establishment pulled out all the stops to kill it.
Amy Colton persuaded Simitian to carry the bill after she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer despite years of supposedly clear mammograms. She learned, too late, that her dense breast tissue obscured the cancer. This condition is noted in reports to doctors but not in reports sent to patients, who develop a false sense of security.
In his veto statement, Brown said women should have the information, but he objected to the notification suggesting women talk to their physicians about further screening. Good grief. If women learn mammograms aren’t effective for them, they’d be crazy not to ask about alternatives.
When the Legislature reconvenes, Simitian should resubmit the bill minus the offending suggestion to consult doctors. The original bill got broad bipartisan support. In the meantime, Colton and Simitian may have saved lives just by airing the issue: All women should ask their doctors about dense breast tissue. And—sorry, governor—about alternative screening.
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Next year, California’s population will surpass 40 million. That’s twice as many people as were here in 1970 when the state passed its landmark resource protection law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
CEQA, which governs the environmental review process for most construction and infrastructure projects, has been at the heart of some notable achievements, such as saving Mono Lake and looking at the cumulative impacts of proposed development. While the law has protected the environment by improving planning processes and stopping many ill-conceived projects, critics can fairly point to cases where competitors have used it to obstruct projects, even where the environmental benefits and job creation opportunities were obvious.
Forty years later, it’s time to make changes to CEQA to better align the law that governs most growth decisions in the state with 21st century challenges, like climate change and how to support a rapidly growing population.
One such reform is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk now. He should sign it.
Senate Bill 226 by Senators Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, allows infill projects—that is, projects within already-developed areas—that meet state-of-the-art environmental standards to take advantage of a streamlined review process. The bill rewards applicants whose projects have the best environmental features with faster and lower cost approval, and it provides other projects with a meaningful incentive to improve. It also eliminates duplicative levels of review, eliminating waste and allowing sponsors of infill projects to take advantage of previous environmental analyses and rely on good local planning.read more ...
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law a requirement that California get 33% of its electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy, by the year 2020.
Brown’s signature raises the former renewable-energy mandate of 20%. Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), author of the legislation, said the 33% benchmark would reduce air pollution and U.S. dependence on unstable foreign sources of oil, while creating more than 100,000 jobs. That number is based on research by the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, a trade group representing renewable energy companies, according to Simitian’s staff.
“The new law will stimulate the economy and improve the environment, while protecting ratepayers from excessive costs,” Simitian said.read more ...
The sun, the wind and other sources of renewable power would supply one-third of California’s electricity by the end of 2020 under a bill that finally cleared the Legislature on Tuesday after years of false starts.
The bill would give California one of the nation’s most aggressive policies for increasing the use of renewable power at a time when comprehensive federal energy legislation has been stalled in Washington. State Sen. Joe Simitian, who wrote the bill, cast it as a way of boosting California’s clean-energy industry, which has continued to grow in recent years despite the recession.
“If we send a clear signal to the market, the market will respond, and investment dollars and jobs and tax revenues will come to California,” said Simitian, D-Palo Alto. “If we don’t send a clear signal to the market, those dollars and jobs and tax revenues will go to some other state or country.”read more ...
As California’s lawmakers sit in a partisan-fueled stalemate over the state budget, and mudslinging becomes an ever-increasing art form in campaigning, the topic of civility in government might be one on which some politicians would have little to say.
But state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) said it was exactly this subject that grabbed his attention and brought him out to Los Gatos to speak. “I was fascinated that they wanted to have this conversation,” Simitian said after his office received a call from the Southwest Santa Clara Valley chapter of the League of Women Voters asking him to talk about civility in government.
Simitian said he applies a three-part test to determine what constitutes incivility in conversation.“If there’s a charge or countercharge, we must ask is it true? Is it fair? And is it relevant?” he said.read more ...
For seven years, Amy Colton did everything right. The registered nurse carefully followed a yearly mammogram routine and conducted monthly self-examinations, all in the hope of screening for breast cancer.
But after seven years of precaution, Colton was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. Only later did she learn that women like herself with dense breast tissue are four to six times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I was never informed that I had dense breast tissue,” Colton said. “Everyone should have this information about their own physiology.”
Using her own experience as motivation, Colton entered state Sen. Joe Simitian’s “There Oughta be a Law” contest in hopes of translating her idea of dense breast tissue disclosure into possible legislation. Her bill was one of four winners announced last week — two new bills and two previous winners that will be reintroduced after failing to make it into law in past years.read more ...
Few 4-year-olds are ready for kindergarten.
That was the message delivered Monday by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, during a countywide education forum at New Brighton Middle School. More than 300 educators, including preschool and kindergarten teachers, superintendents and school board trustees, packed the auditorium for Simitian’s second annual “Together for Kindergarten.”
Simitian shared with the crowd the impetus for a new law he wrote last year that changed the kindergarten entry age. Kids starting kindergarten must turn 5 by Sept. 1 of the fall they wish to start school. Currently, students can start school if they’ll turn 5 by Dec. 2.read more ...
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times calls on the Legislature to pass Sen. Joe Simitian’s bill, SB 2X, requiring that 33% of the electricity in the state come from renewable resources. Some excerpts:
“The state still doesn’t have a renewable energy standard even though a sensible bill to establish one has been taken up annually since 2007. ... We’re once again hoping the political establishment can overcome its legacy of failure and give California an early lead in the struggle to wean the nation off of fossil fuels, clean the state’s air, boost its fledgling green industries and set an example on responsible mitigation strategies for climate change.”
“It’s very important for the standard to take the form of legislation rather than a gubernatorial order, because the latter can be changed at whim by any new administration. Without the force of law, utilities and investors lack the certainty they need to proceed with new renewable projects.”read more ...
In an interview with John Fensterwald of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Sen. Joe Simitian discusses the state budget, K-12 education and what might happen if Gov. Jerry Brown’s revenue proposals lose in a June election.
Fensterwald writes: “Business leaders on the fence on whether to push Republicans to join Democrats in putting tax extensions on the June ballot should consider what might happen if the measures fail. Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian is telling them they’ll probably face voter-led tax initiatives in November they’ll find far less palatable – an oil severance tax or even a challenge to Proposition 13 that raises property taxes on commercial property; it’s known as a split roll tax”
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Sen. Joe Simitian typically has about 90 school administrators, school board members, parents and other educators show up for his semi-annual “Education Updates.” Saturday, Simitian got double that number, as the Palo Alto Democrat warned educators that schools face a $5 billion budget cut if Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget compromise fails.
A budget debacle of that magnitude, Simitian told a roomful of about 180 frustrated and worried educators and parents who attended the meeting in Palo Alto from Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, would amount to roughly $800 for each one of California’s approximately 6 million school children in the coming school year.
To close a budget gap estimated at more than $25 billion over the next 18 months, Brown wants to make over $12 billion in spending cuts, and persuade GOP legislators to let the voters decide a $12 billion extension of income and sales taxes and motor vehicle fee increases. If all that happened, public school funding would remain largely intact.
Simitian, a member of the state Senate’s education committee, urged educators and parents to lobby Republican lawmakers who might be willing to support placing the tax and fee extensions on the June ballot, as well as Democrats who might not be willing to support the spending cuts that the governor says California must make before the tax vote.
“If we don’t have a successful effort in June, bleak won’t begin to describe what we’re looking at” in school funding, Simitian said.read more ...
A New York Times story discusses efforts to restrict the use of cell phones, iPods and other electronic devices, not only while driving, but while jogging or walking.
“The ubiquity of interactive devices has propelled the science of distraction — and now efforts to legislate against it — out of the car and into the exercise routine,” the Times reports.
“In California, State Senator Joe Simitian, who led a successful fight to ban motorists from sending text messages and using hand-held phones, has reintroduced a bill that failed last year to fine bicyclists $20 for similar multitasking.”
In other states, legislators have introduced bills to restrict pedestrians and joggers from using cell phones or iPods. Simitian is not proposing similar legislation.
In the Times story, Simitian says “At some point you do have to simply rely on the good judgment of folks as they go through their daily lives.”
“Is there a problem out there with distracted pedestrians? I’d be the first to acknowledge it,” he said. But, he added, “It’s appropriate to distinguish between 4,000 pounds of steel and glass coming at you and a pedestrian who may well put themselves at risk but probably poses less of a risk to the general public.”read more ...
In an opinion article in the San Mateo County Times, Sen. Joe Simitian urges the Legislature to enable San Mateo, and other counties, to provide health insurance to more children. He has introduced Senate Bill 36, which changes state law so that counties can capture more federal funds. There is no cost to the state.read more ...
In an opinion article, Senator Joe Simitian explains the importance of increasing the amount of electricity generated from renewable resources.
In 2006, the California Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ambitiously committed California to obtain 20 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by the end of 2010.
The utilities blanched and the skeptics snickered. But despite much naysaying, we’ll get pretty darned close. The California Public Utilities Commission said we’d reach 18 percent by the end of this month, and move past 20 percent some time in the new year.
That’s good, but we can do better. California’s commitment to green energy has invigorated the renewable-energy market. An explosion of investment in green technology has produced advances in solar and wind power and a smarter electric grid. Combined, they have brought within reach what once seemed an audacious goal: 33 percent renewables by 2020.
With our 2010 goals clearly in sight, I’ve again introduced legislation that calls for a commitment, in state law, to a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020. That measure, Senate Bill 23, is now before the Senate.
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This opinion article by Senator Joe Simitian appeared in the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal
By Joe Simitian
One way to build the economy back up is to take that expression literally—build things. Constructing offices, research parks, houses, schools, roads, bridges, and transit lines puts people back to work and money back into circulation. And the sooner, the better.
Starting January 1, a new state law will remove potential obstacles to those projects. Legislation I authored in 2010 makes it harder to delay construction projects with endless appeals, abuse of the process or frivolous complaints, while at the same time ensuring that developments are studied and essential environmental protections are preserved.
In boosting the economy, timeliness matters. The federal stimulus program sought projects that were “shovel ready,” with plans drawn and environmental reviews completed. Some private developers, eager to turn the sluggish economy into an opportunity to hurry their projects through, or around, environmental assessments, promoted an approach more akin to “just shovel already.”
Not for the first time, pressure to set aside the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) grew as the economy shrank. The California State Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee, which I chair, received a number of proposals to simply brush aside environmental reviews to push projects along. I couldn’t support that.
But after saying “no” to such proposals, I thought I ought to figure out what I could responsibly say “yes” to. After all, the development community had a point about the potential for opponents of a worthy project to force costly delays even after project approval.
The bill that resulted, Senate Bill 1456, earned bipartisan support, and was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Provisions in the law encourage mediation. The bill makes it more likely that people will sit down and work out their differences before suing. If a challenge is taken to court, it will be resolved more quickly.
Johnny-come-lately-opponents will be out of luck. An organization formed to overturn approval of a project must have at least one member who raised the objections before the approval was granted. Government bodies will have more latitude to decide that certain issues do not need to be restudied as projects are modified: For example, parking need not be re-evaluated because a plant’s potential water consumption has changed.
And when a project’s opponents just can’t accept a legitimate defeat, and turn up yet again in court, a judge may impose a $10,000 penalty for a frivolous lawsuit.
Too often, the environment and the economy are presented as opposites in a zero-sum game in which advances for one come at the expense of the other. It’s a false dichotomy.
A healthy environment and a vibrant economy are not competing ideals, but complementary ones. California’s attractiveness as a business destination lies in part in the natural beauty – mountains, ocean, delta, deserts – that lie just beyond the cities that are the heart of its economy. And within its developed areas, business leaders and rank-and-file employees alike want to live in pleasant neighborhoods, breathe clean air, and commute to work as conveniently as possible.
Environmental regulations can protect that quality of life without holding builders and businesses hostage to anyone who dreams up a fanciful reason to file a CEQA appeal. Senate Bill 1456 is a commonsense way to expedite worthy projects and create jobs without compromising environmental quality.
This new law reflects what Californians want – a state that provides a place where we can find work and share in general prosperity, a place where we can live in comfort and good health, a place where we can savor the splendid natural environment around us.
Joe Simitian represents the 11th State Senate District, which includes portions of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.
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Once just a cruel joke, assuming another person’s identity on the Internet and fabricating an e-mail or Facebook account, is no longer a laughing matter.
A state law effective Jan. 1, authored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, makes online impersonation, when it seeks to harm someone, illegal.
“As a Silicon Valley legislator, I’m nothing but enthusiastic about technology. But the question is, is the technology used wisely and appropriately?” Simitian said this week. “This (‘e-personation’) is one area where some constraint appeared necessary.”
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State Sen. Joe Simitian is again introducing rules that require 33 percent of utilities’ energy mix to come from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2020.
Simitian’s proposal was once vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009. A similar measure died on the Senate floor earlier this year. Both times, the governor objected to provisions that would limit the amount of renewable energy utilities could purchase from out of state.
Schwarzenegger did, however, issue an executive order requiring the higher energy standards, without the restrictions on out-of-state generation.
But executive orders don’t have the permanence of state statute—his successor could have nixed it—and the governor’s order left a lot of uncertainty about whether utilities would actually have to go ahead with the new requirements.
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Even before California’s power companies have met a year-end target of getting 20 percent of their energy from renewables, like wind or solar, state Sen. Joe Simitian is upping the ante.
A bill introduced this week by the senator would require utilities to generate 33 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, a standard Simitian says will go a long way to fighting global warming, spawning green investment and assuring California a local source of energy. The proposal, Senate Bill 23, failed in past years but Simitian, D-Palo Alto, hopes this time will be different.
“I’m optimistic,” he said Tuesday. “This is sound energy policy.”read more ...
After years of frustration at having their ideas vetoed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic state lawmakers said Friday that they are reviving scores of old bills in hopes of having better luck with incoming Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.
The proposals they plan to revisit would give illegal immigrants access to financial aid at colleges, prohibit the practice of “spiking” in public pensions, require utilities to provide more solar and wind power, ban cellphones from state prisons and require college booster groups to disclose their finances.
“We’re going back to look at every bill vetoed in the last eight years,” said state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). “I do think with a change it makes sense to look at bills this governor wasn’t inclined to sign and the new governor might.”
Next week Simitian plans to reintroduce, among others, a measure that would prohibit last-minute bonuses and raises from resulting in sharp increases in state workers’ pensions, and a requirement that 33% of energy produced by utilities by the year 2020 come from renewable sources.read more ...
Columnist Patty Fisher wrote about the two teachers who inspired Sen. Joe Simitian’s bill to raise the age at which children start kindergarten.
We hear a lot about gridlock in Sacramento. We hear that only powerful special interests and highly paid lobbyists have the clout to push legislation through the Capitol maze.
And then every once in a while, we hear about people like Natalie Bivas and Diana Argenti, two Palo Alto elementary school teachers who saw a problem that had baffled the Legislature for two decades, came up with a solution, defied powerful special interests and got a bill passed to fix the problem in just a few months.
Teachers have been complaining for years about California’s Dec. 2 cutoff, one of the latest in the country. But instead of just complaining, Bivas and Argenti wrote letters to elementary school teachers all over the Palo Alto district seeking support to change the cutoff. Armed with signatures from every single teacher, they paid a call to state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.
What happened next amazed everyone. The bill passed on the last night of the session, with just a few minutes to spare.read more ...
California will require kids to be 5 years old when they start kindergarten and create a new grade level for pre-K children after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation aimed at improving student achievement.
The bill approved late Thursday will push up the date by which children must turn 5 to enter kindergarten from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1. The change will be phased in one month at a time over three years starting in fall 2012.
“This is a victory for kids on two fronts,” said state Sen. Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who authored Senate Bill 1381. “We start kids when they’re ready to succeed in school, and for younger children we provide a ‘get ready’ year of instruction as well.” The estimated $700 million saved by delaying kindergarten for roughly 120,000 children annually will be used to pay for “transitional kindergarten,” a new grade level for children with fall birthdays who will be too young to start regular kindergarten.read more ...
Columnist Teryl Zarnow tells how she held her son back a year from entering kindergarten because he was less than 5 when the school year began. She knew she had made the right decision. Over the years, she observed kindergarten as a school volunteer with each of her children. “With three children,” she writes, “I went to kindergarten three times”
“Even then—when kindergarten still had a play kitchen in one corner—it was asking a lot of a 4-year-old. Students spent a week studying the letter ‘A.’ They traced it and glued rice to outline its shape. On Friday, they ate apples.
“Most states require a child to turn 5 by Sept. 1, but California is one of only four states enrolling children younger. This year, after 13 tries, the state Legislature passed a measure to change the cutoff date from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1.
“It’s about time.”
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Kindergarten teacher Robin Gieman calls them “rollers”—children who lie on the carpet and roll around when they should be listening to a lesson.
They’re not misbehaving. They’re just not quite ready for prime-time kindergarten, usually because they are too young. “Those with fall birthdays can just be very wiggly,” the veteran teacher said. “We prefer children who are able to sit and pay attention.”
Two years from now, Gieman may have fewer “rollers” in her class at Nimitz Elementary School in Sunnyvale. If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a bill headed to his desk, the cutoff date for children to be 5 before starting kindergarten will gradually move from the current Dec. 2 to Sept. 1.
“We’re used to thinking of kindergarten as a year kids had to get ready for real school. Now kindergarten is real school,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, a former school board member. Educators have long lobbied for changing the kindergarten cutoff date, but for two decades bills to do that have failed, Simitian noted.
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An editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle calls on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign Sen. Simitian’s AB 1381, to require children to be 5 when they begin kindergarten.
Fourteen studies reviewed by the Public Policy Institute of California in 2008 led it to conclude that the state need to shift its age of entry for kindergarten. Too many 4 1/2-year-olds were struggling in class - and the effects of starting too early reverberated throughout their schooling.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, had seen the studies. Even more compelling was a petition he received from 289 teachers.
A legislator who is known for turning constituent ideas into state laws decided to give the idea yet another try. His SB1381 would require that entering kindergartners must turn 5 by Sept. 1 - instead of the current Dec. 1.
SB1381 went through the state Senate and Assembly by wide margins, and with bipartisan support. It is backed by a broad array of policy experts and education advocates. It is a rare opportunity to improve our schools while saving money at the same time.
The fate of SB1381 now rests with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He should sign it into law.read more ...
A bill that would require pupils entering kindergarten to reach 5 by Sept. 1 and that would create another level of instruction for younger children was passed by the Legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.
The bill, SB-1381, which was approved by the Legislature last week, would also provide a year of transitional kindergarten for children with fall birthdays, essentially creating another grade level for an estimated 120,000 4-year-olds.
California is one of only a few states with a kindergarten cutoff date later than Sept. 1, and many educators believe that puts younger children at a disadvantage when entering today’s academically demanding kindergarten classes.
“Today’s kindergarten is not what most of us think of when we remember our own experience decades ago,” said state Sen. Joe Simitian (D- Palo Alto), who wrote the legislation. “It’s a pretty rigorous place these days, and the youngest are struggling to keep up. One thing that caught my attention was a kindergarten report card that had a space for algebra skills, and I thought, ‘OK, this is a lot more challenging.’ Too many kids are just not readyread more ...
Thanks to the persistence of some Palo Alto teachers, future kindergartners may be at least three months older than the youngest ones who started school this fall.
A bill introduced by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and approved Tuesday by the Legislature would increase the minimum age of the state’s kindergartners if signed into law by the governor.
“There’s just a mound of research that indicates pretty clearly that when kids start too young, they struggle to keep up and that struggle continues for years and years,” Simitian said Wednesday.read more ...
As the final days of the 2010 legislative session wind down in Sacramento, a Silicon Valley lawmaker is pushing to give California the most far-reaching mandate for renewable energy in the United States.
But there’s more to it than putting up some wind turbines and solar farms. The lofty goal is struggling through a complex tangle of utilities, labor unions, environmental groups and green energy companies—each concerned about everything from the price of your monthly PG&E bill to the number of jobs the measure might, or might not, create.
“It is an extraordinarily complex task,” said State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, “both in respect to the issue itself and the politics surrounding it.”
The showdown over Simitian’s bill, SB 722, could come to a vote early next week. The bill would require California’s utilities to produce 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.read more ...
For decades, millions of Californians with children who have fall birthdays have struggled over whether to pack their 4-year-olds off to kindergarten – or hold them back because they might be too young to start school.
This week, California state legislators may be the closest they’ve ever come to making that decision for parents, with room for some exceptions.
A bill by Sen. Joe Simitian, a Palo Alto Democrat, would roll back the date that entering kindergartners must turn 5 from the current Dec. 2 to Sept. 1.
Educators hope the change in the age limit will reduce the number of children in special education and those who are held back, as well as help close the achievement gap that divides affluent and lower-income kids.
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Cruise ships and large commercial ships will be banned from dumping any kind of sewage—even highly filtered wastewater—along California’s coast out to three miles from shore, under new rules from the Obama administration.
The rules, which are scheduled to be announced Wednesday at a news conference in San Francisco, give California among the strictest laws in the nation limiting pollution from large ships.
“This is going to cover the entire California coastline,” said state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. “Oceangoing vessels should not consider our coastline a place for dumping sewage.”
In 2005, Simitian wrote a bill that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed banning sewage discharges in state waters from cruise ships and commercial ships larger than 300 gross tons.read more ...
The California Legislature has passed a resolution expressing “deepest regret” for the wartime internment, curfews, confiscations and other indignities that thousands of Italian and Italian American families faced.
When Mike Maiorana was a boy during World War II, his family was like a lot of others in his Monterey neighborhood. In 1942, his mother was declared an “enemy alien,” along with 600,000 other Italians and half a million Germans and Japanese who weren’t U.S. citizens. And when the government seized fishing boats for the war effort, Maiorana’s dad, a naturalized U.S. citizen, saw his livelihood go down the drain.
Families like the Maioranas last week received a formal acknowledgement from California. A measure that swiftly made its way through the Legislature expresses the state’s “deepest regrets” over the mistreatment of Italians and Italian Americans during World War II.
The resolution was the brainchild of a 79-year-old San Jose man, Chet Campanella, who entered a legislator’s annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest.
Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) sponsored a bill based on Campanella’s idea. “I was wholly unaware of the circumstances he described,” Simitian said. “Somehow this story had passed me by.” Simitian said he saw “contemporary importance” in the effort: “We’re at war on the other side of the world, and I think it’s important to remember that there are millions of Americans who are ethnic Arabs or Muslim by faith, and that they’re good Americans.read more ...
Diana Argenti and Natalie Bivas, two teachers who presented a petition to Sen. Simitian urging California to require children to be older when they begin kindergarten, explain in an opinion piece why the Legislature should set the cutoff to start school at age 5 by Sept. 1.
Over the past 10 years, kindergarten has become increasingly academic, though teachers still make time for art, music and play. For some children, it is too much.
They try to keep up, but fall behind right away. They keep lagging their classmates when they are 7 and 10 and 15 - or until they give up.
As teachers, it breaks our hearts, especially when their struggle has such as an obvious cause: They started kindergarten too young. It has an obvious remedy: Require kindergarteners to be 5 by Sept. 1. We’re calling on the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 1381, authored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, that will make this overdue change.
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Two months ago, a reporter received a profanity-laced e-mail critical of one of her stories. The sender appeared to be Carl Guardino, the chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. He hadn’t sent the e-mail. Guardino was the victim of online impersonation. He soon found out he wasn’t alone - friends, colleagues and relatives had stories of usurped identities and tarnished reputations.
The state law on impersonation is not equipped to deal with the digital age. But a bill making its way through the Legislature is looking to change that. Inspired by Guardino’s story, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, introduced a bill in June that would make it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone.read more ...
Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Morain writes that the next governor needs to defend a state’s right to protect personal data.
In California, privacy is a fundamental right. This state has a constitutional amendment identifying privacy as inalienable. And for better or worse, legislators don’t see themselves as potted plants. Some actually care about state law. All that means the next governor will grapple with privacy or lack of it right here in Sacramento.
“States often have to lead to get attention at the federal level,” said Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, the Legislature’s most prolific author of bills that seek to provide at least a thin veil of privacy. Simitian helped push a first-in-the-nation requirement that companies tell us when a security breach has spewed our personal information into other people’s hands. Because of a 2004 Simitian bill, California requires companies doing business in the state to post privacy policies on their websites. Lately, Simitian has sought to limit the misuse of radio frequency identification. Now Simitian is carrying legislation to protect people who use FasTrak to pay bridge tolls.read more ...
Senate Democrats and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration are embroiled in an improbable fight over renewable energy. They need to resolve it fast, for the sake of the state’s environment and economy.
The battle has its roots in California’s energy crisis of a decade ago. In one of the more significant measures to emerge from the debacle, then-Sen. Byron Sher pushed legislation in 2002 requiring that California’s privately owned utilities rely on the sun, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources for 20 percent of the state’s energy usage by this year.
The legislation made sense, given that energy merchants had been manipulating the supply of natural gas that fires most California power plants, and gouging utilities and, by extension, consumers.
By turning to renewable energy sources, Californians would gain more control over the electric system while also reducing carbon emissions.
Utilities have been racing toward the goal. Southern California Edison is closest. Pacific Gas ad Electric Co. is second. San Diego Gas and Electric Co. is lagging.
In too many instances, the utilities have turned to energy producers outside California for renewable energy. Out-of-state facilities provide no tax benefits or jobs to California. That makes no sense. Californians are expected to pay for renewable energy. As much of that money as possible ought to remain in California.
This issue is especially relevant as voters prepare to decide Proposition 23, the initiative on the November ballot that would suspend the separate mandate that California reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is also more urgent now that Senate Democrats in Washington, D.C., have dropped energy legislation that had contained provisions to reduce greenhouse gases and increase renewable energy requirements.
The jostling on renewables became mind-boggling last year when Schwarzenegger, the governor who champions the environment, vetoed legislation that might have resolved the dispute. Now, Sen. Joe Simitian, a Silicon Valley Democrat who replaced Sher, is pushing a new version of the measure, Senate Bill 722.
Like last year’s measure, SB 722 would increase the mandate that utilities rely on renewable sources for 33 percent of the energy by 2020. That is laudable. Importantly, the bill also urges that 75 percent of the renewable energy come from within California.
On that point, the administration is balking, as are lobbyists for manufacturing industries. There are questions of cost and doubts about whether the state could meet the goal. To meet it, the state may need to streamline permitting requirements and help resolve fights between environmentalists and energy providers on appropriate sites for new wind, solar and geothermal plants.
But there is no reason to bypass California entrepreneurs for energy producers from Montana and other states. California has its own sources of renewable power.
Approval of SB 722 would be a step toward energy independence, and a significant accomplishment for the governor who has tied his legacy to California’s environment. In the process, he and lawmakers would be helping to provide high-paying jobs in an area where they have said they want to direct the economy.
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Over the past 10 years, California spent more than $3.5 billion on an agency that failed to solve the water crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Now, the state is trying again - with a newly formed agency.
Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, author of the bill that created the new agency - the Delta Stewardship Council - said there is no guarantee the council will succeed where the old agency, CalFed, failed. But something needs to be done. Decades of “benign neglect and ineffective governance have not served the state well,” Simitian said. “There’s always some risk with a new direction, but I think the old model was a proven failure.”
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An editorial in the Los Angeles Times called on the Legislature to pass SB 722
Since 2007, state Sen. Joe Simitian (D- Palo Alto) has been introducing bills aimed at requiring California to get 33% of its power from renewable sources such as the sun and wind by 2020.
California cannot achieve its ambitious goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions without this standard, which is why the Legislature should pass Simitian’s bill and Schwarzenegger should sign it. SB 722 would clean the air, produce jobs and make the state a player in the global race to dominate the green-technology industry.read more ...
A San Jose Mercury News editorial called for online impersonation to be made illegal
Impersonating someone with the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud is illegal in California — except when it’s done online. Existing state law, written in 1872, didn’t anticipate the existence of Facebook, MySpace or a host of other Internet sites that unintentionally created new ways to harm innocent victims.
State Sen. Joe Simitian has a solution. His SB 1411 would make it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate another person online. The Legislature should pass the Palo Alto Democrat’s bill, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should sign into law legal protections against online abuse.read more ...
An oped article by Sen. Joe Simitian in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
On the Internet, it’s easy to be someone else. You can set up a fake page on Facebook or MySpace; you can assume an identity on Twitter; you can appropriate someone else’s name when you create an e-mail account.
As the Internet provides new opportunities for mischief, or worse, state law must provide new protections. I have introduced Senate Bill 1411 to make it a misdemeanor to impersonate someone on the Internet if the intention is to harm, intimidate, threaten or deceive them. In addition, victims would gain the right to sue their tormenters.read more ...
Legislation aimed at requiring California electric utilities to meet the nation’s toughest renewable power quotas easily passed its first test Thursday, gaining support from a large number of usually conflicting interests.
The bill would require utilities to get 33% of their power from renewable sources by 2020, a boost from the current 20% standard. The bill, SB 722 by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D- Palo Alto), was approved by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee on a 9-2 vote and is expected to win final passage in late summer.read more ...
Columnist Patty Fisher applauds Sen. Joe Simitian’s bill, SB 1381, to require children to be 5 by Sept. 1 in order to begin kindergarten.
Sen. Joe Simitian’s bill, SB 1381, isn’t a rush job designed to plug a budget hole. It’s a sound proposal to phase in the Sept. 1 start date, eventually saving $700 million a year. Half of that would go toward state-funded preschool for young fives.
It all began as a grass-roots effort by two Palo Alto teachers…The two presented Simitian with nearly 300 signatures from Palo Alto teachers supporting a cutoff change. . . . . Simitian introduced a bill and was surprised when it breezed through the Senate. “Maybe the timing was right,” he said. “The evidence is growing that this is a sensible thing for kids.”read more ...
More rigorous rules for installing red-light cameras at Inland-area intersections could be on the way, as a state senator combats what he feels is lax oversight of the operations and the reality that some cities are more interested in the revenue than road safety. But supporters of the status quo say the new rules will put the brakes on the cameras altogether by making them cost prohibitive.
As cameras go up around the state, officials would face more scrutiny and stricter standards when they propose them. . . . Frustration over the fines and the cameras are what led Sen. Joe Simitian, D- Palo Alto, to propose a bill expanding the requirements for police and cities interested in the cameras.
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Fatal accidents involving cell use while driving have taken their toll in California, and state legislators have reacted by adopting three laws restricting using cells while operating vehicles. But state Sen. Joe Simitian, author of those laws, says too many motorists are still fumbling with cell phones and pecking at tiny keyboards. Simitian has a bill that would increase first-time base fines from $20 to $50 for breaking existing cell laws and from $50 to $100 for subsequent offenses.read more ...
The state Senate passed a bill regulating the use of red light cameras Tuesday.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, introduced SB 1362, which establishes statewide standards for traffic enforcement cameras. The bill requires a history of collisions to justify the placement of cameras and that signs be posted warning motorists. It also makes challenging unjustified tickets easierread more ...
For better or worse, kindergarten has replaced the cookies, milk and naptime of old with reading lessons and numbers worksheets. It’s hard enough for a 5-year-old to negotiate; teachers complain that those younger than 5 are especially likely to fall behind. That’s why most states have changed their laws, requiring children to have turned 5 close to the start of the school year in order to enter kindergarten. California is one of a dozen that haven’t; here, the cutoff date is Dec. 2.
A bill by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) would do more than remedy the situation. [...]
SB 1381 is a smart and thoughtfully designed bill that deserves swift passage.read more ...
If it weren’t for Judy Chirco and a dedicated group of people, the room where more than 100 well-wishers celebrated Chirco’s Woman of Year award may not have been there.
When Camden High School closed in 1980, Chirco participated on a committee that saved part of the school’s land to build the Camden Community Center’s meeting rooms, swimming pool, gymnasium and fields. Chirco, a Camden High graduate, was the toast of a May 6 party thrown there by state Sen. Joe Simitian to celebrate Simitian’s selection of Chirco as the 2010 Senate District 11 Woman of the Year.
“As a community leader, a school leader and one who is committed to social justice, she doesn’t just talk a good game, but she actually rolls up her sleeves and gets it done,” Simitian said.read more ...
For nearly all parents of kindergartners, the start of school is fraught with worry. Will little Jack or Julia make friends? Learn to read? Play well with others? For parents of “young 5s” — kids whose fifth birthday falls between the start of the school year and California’s late cutoff date, Dec. 2 — it’s even more stressful. And with good reason: These children are far less prepared for what has become a rigorous kindergarten curriculum.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, would like to solve this problem and save the state some money, too. [...]
It’s rare that doing the right thing for students also saves the state money. Rather than squabbling over details, lawmakers should seize this opportunity to do both.read more ...
A bill by Bay Area state Sen. Joe Simitian would move the state’s kindergarten cut-off date to Sept. 1, putting it in alignment with most U.S. schools. [...]
In an ideal world, California would have as much as it needs for every program it wants. But the state is in a deep budget hole, forcing deep cuts to all of its programs, including and especially public education. It must embrace compromises such as this one, which saves money and makes an improvement to education. We urge the members of the state senate to stand up against the special interest opposition and support this legislation before its own cut-off date of May 28.
It’s the right thing to do for the future of the children, and the future of California.read more ...
California has one of the latest cutoff dates for kindergartners in the United States. Most states require a child to be 5 years old before entering kindergarten.
The result is that California has about 100,000 4-year-olds in kindergarten. [...]
Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, has introduced Senate Bill 1381, seeking to phase in a new cutoff date over three years. By 2014, all children would have to be 5 on Sept. 1 before entering kindergarten.
The question then becomes, what happens to the kids who would no longer be in kindergarten and who have working parents? Simitian’s bill takes care of that. Half of the $700 million in savings would go toward expanding preschool programs. [...]
This bill provides an opportunity to increase the number of quality preschool slots for California’s 4-year-olds – and to reduce some of the budget strain on public schools. In tough budget times, these kinds of creative solutions will help the state save money, while making investments in the future.read more ...
A state bill to give car pool patrons a free ride even after the lanes are tolled faces a fight from transportation officials across California. But the bill’s author said he’s willing to work with those concerned provided his bill meets its simple goal.
“If you are a car pooler in a car pool lane, you should not have to pay,” said Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.
After watching Bay Area transportation officials and some agencies in Southern California proceed with plans to turn car pool lanes into toll roads, Simitian said he worried tolling agencies would soon start charging vehicles with only two people inside.
“If the goal is to get people out of their cars into a car pool, then why should we make that harder? ...,” Simitian said.read more ...
Howard and many other local educators support a bill by State Senator Joe Simitian that would phase in earlier kindergarten cutoff dates, shifting the date by which a child turns five from the current Dec. 2.
Starting in 2012, the cutoff would move to Nov. 1, followed by Oct. 1 the next year and finally Sept. 1 in 2014. The bill, SB 1381, was approved by the Senate education committee.
Educators have long sought such a change. [...]
While parents often see the grade level question as an academic or even intelligence issue, Dunton explained that social development, especially what she calls the ability to “self-regulate,” plays just as important a role.
“That is the piece that hugely interferes with overall success in school,” she said.
Karen Richmond, a teacher at Valencia Elementary in Aptos with 17 years of kindergarten experience, agrees and offered examples of the challenges faced by four-year-olds in a kindergarten classroom.
“Four-year-old children often have separation anxiety issues, have not had adequate experience in preschool or a pre-K environment, struggle with fine motor such as holding a pencil and cutting with scissors, sitting still, attending to directions and tasks, sharing, taking turns, not to mention simply not being ready to independently access the academic curriculum presented,” she noted.
When they get frustrated, all the students in the classroom can pay the price, she added.read more ...
With an ongoing budget crisis in Sacramento, fueled by a weak state economy, it would be nice if a way could be found to reduce state spending on education while actually improving it. Such a goal might appear to be contradictory, but a bill by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, shows otherwise.
His SB 1381 would save about $700 million a year because there would be an estimated 100,000 fewer children qualifying to begin school, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Half of the money saved would go toward preschool programs and the rest toward the general fund, which could be used for other educational purposes. [...]
Most other states require children to be age 5 on or before Sept. 1 to begin kindergarten. It is time for California to institute the same policy to improve academic performance and use scarce education money more effectively.read more ...
The California Senate has approved a bill that would update the state’s pioneering data breach notification law, the lawmaker who introduced the legislation announced Friday.
The bill from Democratic Sen. Joe Simitian is a reintroduction of the same measure that he proposed last year, but which was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The current legislation, known as SB-1186, builds on the landmark 2003 breach notification bill, SB-1386, by requiring that breach notification letters also contain specifics around the data-loss incident, including the type of personal information exposed, a description of the incident, and advice on steps to take to protect oneself from identity theft.read more ...
In response to Palo Alto teachers’ lobbying efforts last year, state Sen. Joe Simitian is proposing a new law to change age requirements for California kindergartners.
Students now must be 5 years old by Dec. 2 to enter kindergarten, much later than most states’ cutoff dates. Many teachers say the youngest students in their classes are not ready to start kindergarten and consequently fall behind.
Simitian, D-Palo Alto, introduced new legislation to gradually move the cutoff date up to Sept. 1, his office announced in a statement Monday. Senate Bill 1381 would phase in the change over three years, beginning on Nov. 1, 2012.read more ...
It doesn’t happen often, but it’s oh, so aggravating: A driver gets a surprise citation in the mail for a violation in some city the driver – and his or her car – were never even near on the day of the alleged infraction.
Usually, it’s because someone wrote down the license plate number incorrectly. Readers tell us it takes work to get the matter cleared up.
Now, as part of his “There Oughta Be A Law,” contest for constituents, Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, is pushing a bill that forces cities to tighten their procedures for processing red light camera violations.read more ...
... A bill working its way through Sacramento could sharply increase the penalties for driving while using a handheld cellphone, fines that some say are already deceptively higher than had been expected.
The ban was instituted in July 2008, and six months later, texting while driving was similarly prohibited. Only hands-free talking is now allowed.
Senator Joe Simitian, Democrat of Palo Alto, wrote both bills, which include modest fines of $20 for a first offense and $50 for the second. ...read more ...
Someone in Southern California keeps getting busted by red-light cameras — but Vera Gil of San Jose keeps getting the bill.
Gil, an administrator for the city of Cupertino, said she has received three red-light tickets in the past two years for violations she didn’t commit. It seems the cameras consistently misread a “D” on the Southern California driver’s license plate for an “O” on Gil’s.
After a frustrating experience trying to fight the tickets, Gil entered state Sen. Joe Simitian’s “There Oughta Be A Law” contest. Her proposal for new protections for drivers improperly cited by red-light cameras was one of three winners this year, Simitian announced Monday.read more ...
As California public schools faced a flood of pink slips to some 22,000 teachers and other staff last Monday, one legislative plan to fund public education and save those jobs was drawing support from school officials and education advocates.
A constitutional amendment proposed by State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, would allow school districts to approve a local parcel tax – a special flat tax levied on properties—with a 55 percent majority rather than the two-thirds majority that is currently required.
“If the state cannot adequately help the local schools, then they have to help themselves,” said Simitian. “This is a tool that will allow local folks to make local choices about the local needs.”read more ...
Longtime Palo Alto resident Betty Meltzer, described by friends and local officials as a tireless advocate for improving Palo Alto, helped found the “Trees for El Camino” project that aimed to beautify a barren El Camino Real by planting hundreds of trees in the medians. After battling cancer, Meltzer died at the age of 69 on Sept. 29, 2008.
Last year state Sen. Joe Simitian, D—Palo Alto, moved a resolution through the state Legislature that designates El Camino Real between Page Mill Road and San Francisquito Creek as the Betty Meltzer Memorial Highway. The Palo Alto City Council also issued a proclamation Monday night recognizing the street name change and honoring Meltzer for “her many contributions and achievements for the betterment of Palo Alto.”read more ...
If you’re driving, you’re better off not chatting on the phone. If you must talk, use a hands-free device—it’s the law.
And please, no texting while you drive—it’s a no-brainer.
To that end, we’re thankful for the actions of state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who has introduced a bill to raise the fines for drivers caught talking without a hands-free device, and texting. [...]read more ...
Tapping into public resentment of government pay perks, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, has introduced legislation that would put limits on the retirement benefits of government workers.
The bill, among other things, would curb a practice known as “pension spiking” in which public employees count pay hikes in their final year of work, such as cashed-out vacation time and career-end bonuses, toward their pension payouts. How much employees get is generally based on their last year’s salary.
While not illegal, many try to boost their final pay for the sake of retirement, adding a burden to the state’s public retirement fund and forcing other employees and local governments to make greater contributions to keep the retirement system viable.read more ...
by Joe Simitian
“Jobs, jobs, jobs” was the call from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his State of the State message. No one heckled. Jobs are a bipartisan aspiration.
Turning it into a bipartisan accomplishment has been more elusive. So it is all the more frustrating when the state fumbles an easy opportunity for more employment - when projects have been designed, money is available, contractors are eager to bid, workers are desperate, and yet all sit and wait for a sluggish bureaucracy.
School district officials up and down the state tell me that they have construction work ready to go. But the plans are stalled at the Division of the State Architect which must approve them. Like many state agencies, the architect’s office has required its employees to take three unpaid furlough days a month - even though when plan-checkers stay home, construction workers remain idle.
The measure of the wait is called “bin time.” Bin time is not how long it takes to review the plans; it’s how long a plan sits before someone even picks it up. At the end of January, bin time was 12 weeks. That’s right, three months. 
School districts have the money for new buildings and modernization. Voters in 2006 approved $7.3 billion for K-12 schools statewide, and local bonds add millions more. California’s construction industry certainly needs the work. It shrank by more than 100,000 jobs in 2009. That means that school districts are missing a prime opportunity to capture low-cost bids, giving the taxpayers more for their money.
Delays on school projects are particularly disruptive. For work that must be done when students are gone, a three-month delay can turn into a year if the project isn’t approved in time for the coming summer.
Instead of furloughs, state architect’s office employees ought to be working full time, and even overtime. If applications temporarily flood in, the agency should contract out for additional reviewers if it believes adding permanent staff is not cost-effective.
Getting these projects underway is not just a benefit for school districts. When people go to work and contractors buy supplies, the state receives sales and income taxes.
Unfortunately, a backlog at the state architect’s office is nothing new. Last April, the agency told school districts it was reordering priorities. In June, acknowledging bin times of 12 weeks, the agency announced it would hire 25 additional staff and take other measures to catch up.
It sounded good. Progress was made. It didn’t last.
Long term, the state and the nation need to reinvigorate the private sector to strengthen our economy. But in the short term, we need government to prime the pump. Right now, no mission of the state is more critical than job creation.
Few projects can match school construction as a quick way to put carpenters, masons, electricians and plumbers back to work and to boost orders for lumber, concrete, lights and pipes.
Schools are waiting to provide better classrooms, libraries and playgrounds for their students. Workers are anxious for a regular paycheck. The money is waiting in the bank.
Everyone is waiting on a state that says it wants nothing more than jobs, jobs, jobs, yet the bureaucracy seems in no hurry to reach in and grab the ones sitting in the bin.
State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, is a member of the Senate Education Committee.
 The Division of the State Architect recently changed the way it measures bin time. This figure reflects their original calculations.
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Drivers who love to text or chat on a cell phone, you might want to reconsider your illegal ways.
The cost of a ticket for these offenses could go way up — to $455 for texting and $255 and up, from about $145 — for not using a hands-free device if a bill introduced Monday by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, becomes law. [...]
“I’ve heard repeatedly that the current fines are too modest,” said Simitian, who has led the charge for tougher laws on these forms of distracted driving for nearly a decade. “They wouldn’t be anymore.”read more ...
Op-Ed by Rosamond L. Naylor and George H. Leonard
If aquaculture is to play a responsible role in the future of seafood here at home, we must ensure that the “blue revolution” in ocean fish farming does not cause harm to the oceans and the marine life they support.
In December, Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) introduced in the House the National Sustainable Offshore Aquaculture Act, a bill that addresses the potential threats of poorly regulated fish farming in U.S. ocean waters. Her bill shares many of the features of a California state law, the Sustainable Oceans Act, which was written by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. That legislation regulates fish farming in state waters, which extend three miles off the California coast. At present, all aquaculture operations in California and the U.S. are located just a few miles offshore. [...]
The Obama administration is currently developing a national policy to guide the development of U.S. aquaculture. The administration would do well to embrace the vision articulated by Capps and Simitian for a science-based and precautionary approach to help ensure a responsible future for U.S. ocean fish farming.read more ...
How veteran California legislator Joe Simitian ’77 waded in to play a leadership role in California’s water reform battle.
A few miles downstream from the confluence of California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, their combined waters—the bounteous runoff from the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada—funnel through the Strait of Carquinez, gap in the low hills of the Coast Range. This geological chokepoint creates a rare hydrological marvel: a vast, inverted river delta—one of only a few inverted deltas in the world. It’s an immense, wildlife-rich estuary once known as the “inland sea.”
Over the past 150 years, though, the Delta’s abundant and flood-prone waters have been corralled by levees and tapped by giant aqueducts. Now the linchpin of California’s water supply, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta provides water to 25 million California residents and irrigates 5 million acres of cropland. But even as demand for the Delta’s water has grown, the supply has shrunk: The Delta has been plagued by four consecutive years of drought.
The combined effects of drought and diversion have devastated the estuary’s wildlife, especially fish populations. The Pacific smelt is on the verge of extinction, and wild salmon runs have dropped by 98 percent: from 3 million per year to just 50,000 per year. “There is, indeed, a salmon crisis in California,” Professor Holly Doremus, a Boalt Hall expert on state environmental laws, told California legislators in March 2009. “This is very obvious to anyone paying attention.” Doremus added, “This is not new. It’s as if we’ve waited until we’ve had a heart attack to seek medical attention rather than take preventive action.”
But it isn’t just wildlife that is at risk: Experts warn that the Delta’s 1,600-mile maze of flood-control levees, some dating back 150 years—is extremely vulnerable to collapse, and some estimates of flood damage from a Katrina-like catastrophe put the potential cost at $25 billion or more.
In April 2009, water shortages, ecological damage, and vulnerable levees prompted the environmental group American Rivers to declare the Delta America’s most endangered waterway. Environmentalists have long sought a solution to the situation. But just as the Delta is a geologic and hydrologic chokepoint, it’s proven to be a political chokepoint, too, defying a quartercentury of legislative attempts at water reform. Finally, in November 2009, the California legislature passed an omnibus package of water-reform bills. Designed to protect the Delta’s fragile ecosystem and improve water-supply reliability, the package included four bills to address the issues of water supply, environmental protections, groundwater monitoring, and oversight and enforcement, as well as a bond issue to fund future
Fiscally, the most contentious piece of the water-reform bill signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger on Nov. 9 is likely to be the $11-billion bond issue that would fund future water projects. But philosophically, the linchpin of the package is SBX7 1, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian, ’77. Simitian’s bill creates two “co-equal goals,” water-supply reliability and an improved ecosystem in the crucial and fragile Sacramento- San Joaquin Delta. SB-1 also abolishes the troubled Cal-Fed program and the Bay Delta Authority, creating a new seven-member governing council to oversee future water projects and the Delta’s environmental protection. Simitian—chairman of the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee—spoke at length with Transcript about his labyrinthine four-year journey through California’s water world.
Click the following link to access a PDF of the interview:read more ...