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Legislators outline goals for session

Some of the proposed bills include reforms in education, aerospace industry tax credits

Posted: March 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.

First-term Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, looked to his prior work in the education field to craft portions of his legislative platform.

 

With the deadline to introduce legislation now in the rearview mirror, state representatives for the Santa Clarita Valley have outlined their political goals for the coming year.

The legislators — two Democrats and two Republicans — have put their names on dozens of bills this year, but each identified for The Signal their highest-priority ones.

Wilk

First-term Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, looked to his prior work in the education field to craft portions of his legislative platform.

A former member of the College of the Canyons Board of Trustees, Wilk said Friday one of his biggest priorities is the passage of Assembly Bill 806, which would revise a decades-old law that determines the way community colleges must spend money.

According to a statute passed in the 1960s, 50 percent of expenses in elementary, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions must come from classroom expenses, mostly teacher salaries.

But that 50 percent figure does not take into account the salaries of academic counselors, Wilk said, meaning community colleges often have too few counselors for their students.

“If you move counselors over in with faculty in that 50 percent equation, community college districts can hire more counselors without being penalized,” Wilk said.

AB 806 would also increase the amount of money that must be spent on classroom instruction from 50 percent to 52 percent.

Another Wilk bill would make it easier for some to avoid going to college altogether.

Assembly Bill 1306 would create a process for people to take state-proctored competency tests that, if passed, would grant college credit in those subjects.

This would allow people who earn on-the-job experience to earn academic credit for their knowledge, Wilk said.

“There are a lot of people out there who are proficient and have mastered (these subjects) and are harmed because they didn’t invest the four years to go to school,” Wilk said.

Fox

Education is also a priority for Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, who, like Wilk, was elected to his first term in November.

Reached by phone Thursday, Fox talked about Assembly Bill 736, which would require the state to examine locating a new California State University branch in the Antelope Valley.

“There’s an access issue currently in the Antelope Valley,” Fox said. “I think if we could get a four-year college there, we can give more local children the option to attend.”

But Fox said his main focus is on Assembly Bill 737, which would instruct California to apply to have portions of the state designated a testing site for unmanned aircraft such as drones.

Fox said he thinks such a designation would bring additional business into the state, which he said is his top priority as an assemblyman.

Fox did mention that he is aware drones are a sensitive matter at the moment, with some people knowing only of their military applications such as intelligence-gathering.

“Nobody wants to invade anybody’s privacy,” Fox said. “There are definite non-military uses for drones as well.”

Fox mentioned use in firefighting as one such non-military application.

Knight

State Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, has also introduced several education-related bills this session.

One, Senate Bill 565, would bar anyone convicted of a “serious or violent” felony from serving as a volunteer aide in California schools.

Knight said Friday he has introduced various versions of the bill four times. Before his election as a state senator in November, he served in the California Assembly.

Under current law, only criminals who are registered sex offenders are barred completely from serving as volunteer aides in schools.

Knight has also introduced Senate Bill 290, which would allow members of the United States military to be eligible for resident tuition at California colleges and universities, provided they enroll in school within two years of leaving the military.

This would not apply to servicemen and women who left the military due to misconduct or were dishonorably discharged.

Education aside, several other Knight bills would benefit the aerospace industry in California.

Among these are Senate Bills 412 and 414, which would grant certain exemptions on sales and use taxes on materials used primarily for aerospace purposes and give tax credits to employers who hire those working in the aerospace field.

The purpose of these bills, Knight said, is to try and keep high-technology jobs in California, despite what he described as high levels of taxation and regulation.

“Companies do want to make money,” Knight said. “And we want them to make money.”

While Knight said he thinks many of his bills are bipartisan, he draws a clear party line with his position on gun rights.

This session, Knight has supported legislation to make it easier to get a concealed weapons permit in Los Angeles County and has co-sponsored another bill that would allow specially trained employees to carry weapons on school campuses.

Pavley

On the other side of the aisle is Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, who, like Knight, is representing portions of the Santa Clarita Valley for the first time following state redistricting.

During a phone interview Thursday, Pavley said two high-priority bills for her are Senate Bills 145 and 651.

The former deals with sentencing requirements for people convicted of possessing child pornography.

Under current state law, many sentences for possession of child pornography are no longer than three years, according to Pavley. SB 145 would raise the potential sentence to as long as seven years.

“Penalties for these crimes in California are relatively weak,” Pavley said. “And that’s certainly unacceptable.”

SB 651 would require timely medical examinations for people who are sexually abused at state hospitals and centers that house those with developmental disabilities. The goal is identifying a perpetrator through DNA testing.

Another major Pavley effort is Senate Bill 4, would require additional regulation and oversight on the process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” in California.

The bill would also require companies to keep more detailed records on how often they are fracking, or what they do to store or dispose of chemicals used in the process.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process that uses chemicals and water to fracture rocks underground and free oil or natural gas deposits to be mined.

Pavley said the process requires hundreds of gallons of water and may draw too much from wells in areas that rely heavily on groundwater resources, including the Santa Clarita Valley.

Since the process also involves injecting chemicals, water contamination is also a concern, Pavley said.

“We need to ensure that safeguards are in place to show the public that we’re looking out for their long-term best interests,” Pavley said.

Process

Feb. 22 was the last day for bills to be introduced in the state Legislature. Most bills that have been introduced will be referred to committee or subcommittee for a review. Since committees can kill bills, many don’t survive to reach the floor for a vote in the Assembly or Senate.

Knight estimated that about 94 percent of the bills that make it to the floor are eventually passed — due in part to the difficulty of getting a bill through committee.

Lmoney@signalscv.com

661-287-5525

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