‘Go’ time for state Legislature

The Signal - Santa Clarita Valley

January 3, 2017

It’s Opening Day in Sacramento.

While the official start of the state Senate and Assembly 2017-18 session was on Dec. 5, when lawmakers were sworn in, today marks the real beginning of the political season in the state capital – though, as with all marathons, it’s expected to get off to a slow start.

“First and foremost, it’s a lot of members walking around meeting each other, lots of associations and advocacy groups coming in and introducing themselves,’’ said Curtis Raulinaitis, chief of staff for newly elected Sen. Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita’s 21st District.

“The policy committees don’t ramp up until March,” he added, “and the bill introduction deadline is in February. There’s still a lot of legislative research to do.’’

Still, there is a floor session scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday and another for Thursday morning.

“The state faces many challenges, including an uneven economic recovery, poor roads and a government-induced drought,” said Wilk – a reference, Raulinaitis said, to the state’s “missed opportunities” to build infrastructure to capture rainwater.

“My top priorities.’’ Wilk went on, “include tackling long-term debt, greater government transparency, improving public education and addressing infrastructure.”

Wilk has been named vice chair for the Senate’s Education and Agriculture committees. He also was appointed a member of the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee and the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The Lancaster Republican has already introduced a measure – Senate Bill 57 – aimed at keeping mining giant Cemex from beginning long-pending operations in Soledad Canyon.

As Cemex awaits word from a federal panel of administrative judges on whether it can begin mining operations, Wilk’s bill would re-open public comment on the state permitting process for the mega-project’s water supply, if the feds ultimately OK the project.

Newly elected Assemblymen Dante Acosta of Santa Clarita and veteran Assemblyman Tom Lackey of Palmdale, both Republicans, are principal co-authors of Wilk’s bill.

In addition, Sen. Henry Stern, a freshman Democrat whose 27th District includes a slice of Santa Clarita, has told The Signal he would be inclined to support Wilk’s bill, but had not yet been approached by his Republican colleague.

“I’ve been working to try to close down Cemex for years,’’ Stern said. “We should not be a mining town.’’

Stern has been named chairman of the Senate’s Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. He also was picked for four other committees — Energy, Utilities and Commerce; Environmental Quality; Judiciary; and Natural Resources and Water.

His office said the newly minted senator was still laying the groundwork on specific legislative proposals. But in a recent interview with The Signal, Stern said that items of particular interest to him included the Aliso Canyon gas-storage facility and the Porter Ranch gas leak.

The one-time environmental lawyer also said he wants to take the lead “in the fight to protect California’s environmental laws and policies from the attacks coming out of the new presidential administration.’’

All legislation regarding environmental safety and oversight, including that of the Public Utilities Commission, will have to go through at least one of the Stern’s committees, his office pointed out.

On the Assembly side, Acosta’s office indicated that specific legislative proposals would be forthcoming. The freshman from Santa Clarita has sent out feelers to the community for citizen panels “to help me amplify the needs of our district in the state capitol by volunteering to be a part of an advisory council.”

According to Acosta’s chief of staff, David Creager, the councils may cover topics such as (but not limited to): veteran’s issues; local government; education; the environment; law enforcement; and small business, as well as particular industries such as banking and finance, insurance, health care, manufacturing, and arts and entertainment.

Meanwhile, Lackey, of Palmdale, plans to push for his Assembly Bill 6 – authorizing the eventual use of new, high-tech roadside drug testing, in the wake of the state passing Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana.

“California cannot wait any longer to take meaningful action against drugged driving now that voters have passed Proposition 64,’’ Lackey’s office said in a statement.

It all gets under way on Wednesday. Let the games begin.