Spring is finally here and the 2013-2014 legislative session is kicking into high gear. In addition to news from the 50th Assembly District, I wanted to let you know about some of the legislation I’m working on in Sacramento. I’m particularly eager to discuss AB 1301, a measure which will impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) here in California. Since the beginning of the legislative session three months ago, my office has received hundreds of messages from constituents who are concerned about fracking and its impact on our communities. I believe AB 1301 will compel all stakeholders to come to the table and address the serious risks associated with fracking.
Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns.
IN THIS ISSUE:
This past month I introduced legislation (AB 1301) to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operations until state regulators develop regulations that protect public health and safety and address other significant environmental concerns.
Fracking operations have skyrocketed throughout the country and in California as new technologies have enabled the extraction of oil and natural gas deposits from previously unreachable geological formations. However, fracking uses and produces highly toxic chemicals that can pose serious threats to public health and the environment. The threat is significant enough that 14 states have now enacted legislation restricting or banning the practice until safeguards are in place. Currently, California does not regulate or monitor fracking despite holding the largest oil reserve in the continental United States, the Monterey Shale.
In California, we pride ourselves on being a national leader on environmental protection, yet we have allowed this activity to occur largely unregulated. California regulates massage therapists more heavily than hydraulic fracturing.
Because fracking is unregulated, the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), the agency responsible for providing oil and gas well permits, is unable to report on where fracking has occurred. State regulators have little knowledge of what chemicals have been used, cannot notify people if fracking is occurring in their communities, and are unable to determine if fracking is polluting groundwater or impacting air quality. Public health and environmental problems related to fracking have been documented in Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
The more recent forms of hydraulic fracturing that have garnered so much national attention were known by DOGGR as early as 2010. Despite the public health and environmental concerns raised at that time, California regulators did not implement any new regulations. In early 2012, DOGGR finally began conducting workshops for the purpose of creating a discussion draft of proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations that was released in December 2012. Regulations are expected to be proposed sometime before this summer. It is expected that the development of these regulations will take at least another year. Meanwhile, fracking activities will continue without any oversight – nearly four years after officials first learned of the new fracking technologies.
I support the department’s effort to develop regulations, but we need a reality check. There is no requirement for the regulatory process to be completed by next spring and given the snail’s pace to date, the likely concern of environmentalists, and opposition from drilling interests, I have little confidence in the State’s ability to stick to its timeline. This moratorium will incentivize all stakeholders to address the public health, safety, and environmental hazards that fracking poses to California.
California’s economy has been through a rough stretch in recent years. While it appears the worst of the economic crisis is behind us, our state’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. It is essential at this time that elected leaders focus on measures that will grow our economy and create jobs in California. This will help put us on a sound fiscal footing and enable government to fund budgetary priorities, such as education, public safety, and transportation.
One way to do this is to cut down on “red tape” and delays that employers face. Recently, I co-authored AB 113 in my role as a member of the Assembly Budget Committee. This bill will allocate $2 million in much-needed funds to the Secretary of State’s office to upgrade its ability to process business filings and reduce the backlog of California businesses trying to get up and running. Our goal is to ensure that California businesses can get a decision on their business filings in 5 business days, and we will be working with the Secretary of State’s office to make sure that happens.
Throughout this legislative session, I’ll be looking for ways to cut through the red tape and bureaucratic delays that slow down business development and job creation in our state. I believe that we can make California a great place to do business while still holding firm to responsible consumer, workplace, and environmental protections that make California a great place to live. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature and with you, my constituents, to make that idea a reality.
AB 113 will proceed to the Senate, and hopefully, quickly to the Governor’s desk for signature.
Holocaust Memorial Day, also known as the Day of Remembrance or Yom Hashoah, will take place on Monday, April 8. This important day honors the victims and survivors of a tragic period in history and reminds us that we must remain vigilant in the fight against bigotry and hatred.
The California State Assembly has made a tradition of annually commemorating the week. Holocaust survivors, liberators, or children of survivors will join us in a Sacramento reception prior to the floor ceremony.
This year, I am pleased to announce that the Assembly will honor Michael Popik, who resides in the 50th Assembly District. Mr. Popik was born in 1931 in Czechoslovakia. In May 1944 he and his family were rounded up, put in cattle cars and sent to Auschwitz/Birkenau. Shortly after arrival at Birkenau, Michael was separated from his parents and two siblings and put into a labor camp. With the approach of the Soviets in early 1945, Michael was ordered to march through the winter snow to the Mauthausen concentration camp. While there, he was subjected to severe abuse at the hands of the SS which resulted in permanent damage to his kidneys.
As the Soviets continued to approach, Michael was again ordered to leave the camp and march through the wilderness. Of the 2000 prisoners who set out for the Gunskirchen camp, only 300 made it alive. Finally in May 1945, the SS abandoned the camp and Michael searched out and found an American regiment, who fed him and cared for his injuries. Tragically, of the 39 members of Michael’s family, he was the sole survivor.
Michael Popik’s story is a stark reminder of the brutality that European Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime. However, it is also an incredible story of survival and perseverance, and I am humbled to be able to honor Mr. Popik on behalf of the State Assembly.
My wife Robbie, the child of a survivor of Nazi atrocities, will also be in attendance as we bear witness to the Holocaust. Robbie’s father, Frank Black (Franz Lucien Shwarzschild) fled Frankfurt, Germany in 1938 and made his way to the United States. Her uncle, grandfather, and others remained behind and died at the hands of the Nazis.
I am proud to be assisting in organizing this event and authoring an Assembly Concurrent Resolution recognizing Holocaust Memorial Day. We must honor the memory of Holocaust victims by countering indifference with vigilance; apathy with action.
The world’s top marathoners and television viewers around the country got a block-by-block view of the 50th Assembly District this month as the LA Marathon snaked its way through the Westside. The stadium-to-sea route took the marathoners from Dodger Stadium in Elysian Park through Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, West LA, and finally to Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica for the finish.
I was honored to present awards to the first male and female to cross the finish line in the wheelchair division. Krige Schabort and Susannah Scaroni broke the tape as winners of their respective divisions.
For Krige Schabort, this was his fourth consecutive win at the LA Marathon. The South African national who now resides in Cedartown, GA is a war veteran who lost his legs in a bomb explosion. He won the Silver Medal in the T54 Marathon at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, Australia.
Susannah Scaroni is a student at the University of Illinois, originally from Washington but born in Oregon. She competed in the 2012 Paralympics and placed 8th in the Marathon. She also competed in the 2012 Boston Marathon where she placed 5th. She placed first in Sunday’s LA Marathon with a time of 1:54:38.
I also had the opportunity to surprise Julie Weiss with a State Assembly Certificate of Recognition for her inspirational journey. Julie ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks to honor her father who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012. She ran one marathon a week starting last March and decided to finish her exhausting journey in Santa Monica.
Julie is an incredibly inspiring woman and it was an amazing experience to celebrate her achievements with her. She has raised $178,000 for pancreatic cancer and every race that she ran was dedicated to a different person who lost their life to this deadly disease. Over the past year, Julie has become a standard-bearer for survivors of pancreatic cancer and their families. Not only is Julie a marathon superstar, she also works a regular 9-5 job during the week and has shown us all what dedication and hard work can do.
Earth Day is fast approaching, and I wanted to let you know about a fun event in our community to commemorate the occasion.
The 14th Annual Topanga Earth Day Festival will be taking place on April 20th and 21st at the Topanga Community House Fairgrounds. Events will include educational demonstrations by environmental groups, performances by a diverse group of musical artists, films and documentaries, and educational guest speakers. Arts and crafts vendors will set up booths, and there will also be a children’s area with activities and exhibits. My office will be setting up an informational booth on Saturday from 10 to 3, and I’ll be available to meet with constituents and discuss environmental issues from noon to 1 PM.
It should be a lot of fun. I hope to see you there!
WHO: Environmental groups, visual and musical artists, guest speakers, and exhibitors
WHAT: Topanga Earth Day
WHERE: 1440 North Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290
WHEN: April 20th & 21st, 10 AM to Sunset