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September 20, 2006

For More Information, Contact:
Paige Schoknecht at (650) 688-6384


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

“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.

The winner or winners 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.”

Since its inception, the contest has spawned “a wide range of proposals,” said Simitian.  Nine of those ideas have already become law (a tenth measure has been passed by the Legislature and awaits action by the Governor).

The Governor recently signed SB 1609, a bill idea suggested in last year’s contest.  Submitted by Shirley Hochhausen of Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and Shirley Krohn of the Elder Financial Protection Network, SB 1609 protects seniors from predatory lending practices and abuse in connection with reverse mortgages, a popular type of loan that allows seniors age 62 or older to receive cash by borrowing against the equity of their homes. 

Another “There Oughta Be A Law” entry, SB 1610, which requires motorists to move over or slow down when passing by emergency vehicles on the road, is also awaiting the Governor’s signature.  Daniel Frederick Leon, a tow truck driver, submitted this idea after noticing that drivers who do not move over or slow down when approaching tow trucks or emergency crews endanger the lives of workers on the road and other motorists.

“The contest,” said Simitian, “has had a powerful impact on the way my constituents view the state government.  At the beginning of the year, somebody offers up a good idea.  At the end of the year, it’s the law for 37 million Californians.  That’s a powerful statement that, despite its imperfections, the system can and does work.” 

To request a contest entry form, call Senator Simitian’s district office at (650) 688-6384 or (831) 425-0401.  The deadline for all entries is November 10, 2006.