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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                      

October 6, 2008

For More Information, Contact:

Hema Sareen Mohan (650) 688-6384

Sarah Mason (916) 651-4011


PALO ALTO – State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) kicked off his eighth annual “There Oughta Be A Law” contest today.  The contest invites Californians to submit ideas for state legislation. 

“Understandably, the budget stalemate left many Californians frustrated,” said Simitian.  “But my experience tells me that the public is hungry to make a difference.  Folks in the community have the will and the ability to engage in the work of governance.  The “There Oughta Be a Law” contest is an invitation to participate in that very process.” 

The winner or winners of the contest will have their bill ideas introduced as legislation, and have the opportunity to testify at a hearing on their bill in the State Capitol.  They will also have lunch with Simitian, and receive a California State flag that has flown over the Capitol. “But most importantly,” said Simitian, “winners stand a good chance of seeing their ideas become law for more than 38 million Californians.”

“Some of the best ideas I hear for new legislation come directly from folks in the community.  If you’ve ever thought to yourself, ‘hey, there oughta be a law about that,’ now is your chance to be heard,” Simitian said.

Simitian added, “I’m constantly impressed by the number, quality, and variety of contest entries I receive each year.  And our contest winners come from all walks of life.”  He noted that previous winners have included “an attorney, a retired nurse, a pair of police officers, a high school senior, a tow truck driver, and Stanford med students.  It’s been an incredibly diverse group of folks.”

“It’s also important to note that even when a contest entry isn’t chosen as a winner, it still has an impact,” said Simitian.  “I personally review every proposal, and I learn a tremendous amount about the cares and concerns of my constituents.  That’s knowledge I carry with me every time I set foot on the floor of the Senate.”

Since its inception, the contest has spawned “a wide array of proposals,” said Simitian.  Fourteen of those ideas have already become law including three that the Governor signed this year.  Those three are as follows:

SB 1399 addresses the contentious issue of “trees versus solar power,” which drew international attention earlier this year when two Sunnyvale homeowners were criminally prosecuted because their trees cast shade on their neighbors’ solar panels.  SB 1399 protects trees and shrubs planted before the installation of a solar collector; eliminates criminal prosecution as a penalty for violation of the California Solar Shade Control Act; provides a mechanism for written notice between neighbors; makes it easier for local communities to adopt and enforce their own local ordinances; and clarifies various provisions of the law, which were vague or confusing.

SB 1400 is the first attempt in a decade to strengthen California’s consumer protections against deceptive sweepstakes practices that prey on the most vulnerable Californians, particularly senior citizens. 

SB 1401 requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CDVA) and the California National Guard to develop and implement outreach programs for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from traumatic brain injury (TMI). 

To enter the contest, submit your idea on Simitian’s website at or request an entry form from Simitian’s district offices at (650) 688-6384, (408) 277-9460 or (831) 425-0401.  The deadline for all entries is Monday, November 10, 2008.