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April 30, 2009

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Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011


SACRAMENTO– Winners in State Senator Simitian’s 2009 “There Oughta Be A Law” contest traveled to Sacramento this week to testify in the State Senate – with good results. Advocates for all three bills persuaded Senate Committee members that each of their bills should become state law. Each of the bills now moves onto the next steps of the legislative process.

Medical Sharps Waste – SB 486 – Betty Lipkin

Legislation aimed at creating a safe way to handle “sharps” (a type of medical waste that includes syringes and lancets) passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee with a 7-0 vote Monday, gaining broad bipartisan support.  SB 486, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee for approval. 

Contest winner and San Carlos resident Betty Lipkin suffers from multiple sclerosis.  She, along with more than a dozen members of the National Multiple Sclerosis society attended the committee hearing, speaking in support of the bill.

“For anyone with a family member who takes insulin or other medical injections, this idea will seem long overdue,” Simitian said. “We tell patients they can’t throw sharps away, but there isn’t an easy, safe solution. SB 486 is a step toward that solution and making it possible to do the right thing, and we’ll all be safer as a result.”

SB 486 requires pharmaceutical manufacturers who sell medications that are routinely injected at home to submit plans to the California Integrated Waste Management Board describing how they support and provide safe needle collection and disposal programs for the patients who inject their drugs.

“There has to be a way to get rid of these containers that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg,” said Lipkin. “I’ve never been able to find a way to do it, and I think it’s time we do something about it that’s ecologically sound and safe.”

It is estimated that over one million people in California use syringes and other sharps for home health care.

Smoke Detector Collection Act – SB 317 – Ron Pomerantz

Senate Bill 317, which aims to inform consumers about the proper disposal of smoke detectors, was passed Monday by the State Senate Environmental Quality Committee. Senate Bill 317 now moves to the Senate floor for approval.

“Smoke detectors save lives, so when they break, those devices must be replaced,” said Simitian. “This bill will help ensure that detectors are disposed of safely.” 

Though vital for home safety, some smoke detectors contain Americium, a radioactive material.  SB 317, proposed by San Jose Fire Captain Ron Pomerantz, would require manufacturers of fire alarms to provide consumers with information, through the use of a toll-free telephone number and/or website labeled on the device.  The information would also be included in the device’s packaging, describing where and how to return, recycle, and dispose of the product properly.

Although Pomerantz was unable to travel to Sacramento to speak in support of his bill, he followed the action back home in Santa Cruz and said he was “delighted” that his bill had cleared its first hurdle.

“Radioactive materials don’t belong in our landfills,” said Simitian. “It’s just common sense.” California already has similar laws in place for mercury and other toxins. 

Commuter Trip Reduction – SB 425 – Liz Levy

A bill aimed to help California commuters passed its first hurdle Tuesday in the State Senate Transportation Committee.  Senate Bill 425, aims to reduce the number of cars on the road and the amount of time drivers spend on their commute.

The key to success, Simitian emphasized, is incentives. “Observation tells us that too many of us are still driving solo, even if that means sitting in traffic. We need to figure out what motivates us to get out of our cars, and provide incentives to encourage that effort. That’s what this bill will do.”

Since 1992 a “parking cash out” program has been in effect in California, however it is not widely or well enforced.  Parking cash out is a program that gives some employees cash if they opt to use alternate methods of transportation, rather than use a company provided parking space.  SB 425 would provide a clearer method of enforcement for parking cash out, and offer tax credits to small businesses that help green commuters.

The bill garnered support from both the business and environmental communities, including the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

SB 425 was proposed by Soquel resident Liz Levy. “Parking cash out can significantly reduce solo commuting, freeing up roadways and reducing air pollution,” said Levy during Tuesday’s testimony. “It can also trigger other business benefits, such as lower overhead costs, more parking for customers, and improved employee morale.”

“California often sets the pace for environmental progress, but when it comes to commuting we are quite literally stuck in the slow lane,” said Simitian, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

For more information on Senator Simitian’s “There Oughta Be A Law” contest, to see photographs of the contest winners testifying at the Capitol, and to read more on the bills, visit