Thank you for accommodating my schedule as I am running from one end of the district to the other on this farewell tour, trying to get all of the cities and touch briefly on the legislative efforts during the past year.
Clearly, the biggest change will come about as a result of the passage of all of the state bond measures. There's a substantial amount of money set aside for transportation projects, which will be important to the East County region.
Unfortunately, the bills were done very quickly. They were done in order to obtain a fairly prompt consensus, which means that there's not a great deal of detail in any of the bills. Most of the appropriations are allocated in very broad categories and will be subject to additional enabling legislation, which will start hitting the boards, I'm sure, when the legislature reconvenes in its new session.
As a result, there's going to be a tremendous amount of competition for the money that's available. I have been told that members and members-elect from the Los Angeles region have already held informal caucuses to discuss the transportation, water and other infrastructure bonds.
I'm sure they are concerned about getting their fair share of the money as they have generally lost out in the past. Please note the sarcasm. They have been very successful in staying together on a lot of the issues.
Unfortunately, although we have started a Northern California-Bay Area Caucus this past year, the north tends to, like with the Bay Bridge, have extended conversations that fail to achieve a consensus in a reasonable period of time - thereby leaving our friends in the south to move forward with their plans. So I would encourage the city - as you are concerned and I know active in the League of Cities - to keep an eye on the bills that may move through.
Legislation that I was successful in getting passed will improve the options for local agencies in enforcing abandoned vehicles, abandoned vessels on waterways, and illegal dumping of solid waste on the roads. We have tried to tweak the legislation to make them more usable for law enforcement agencies. I think we've been able to achieve some consensus that will make it easier to resolve some of those issues for local governments.
I was also able to get through a bill that exempts BART from CEQA (environmental) requirements for many of its retrofit projects. As you know, BART is undertaking a major renovation, thanks to the passage of their bonds a couple years ago.
Those retrofit efforts were hampered by the fact that they were going to be required to submit all of their plans - even those that were just for retrofit within existing footprints - for CEQA review and spend millions of dollars on environmental impact reports to tell us that there's going to be a rail line crossing where there's a current rail line crossing.
So we were able, after a good deal of negotiation and support from a variety of Bay Area groups, to get a bill passed that exempts BART from that requirement and should free up - at least in a conservative estimate - $10 to $30 million for additional transportation projects that won't be necessary to spend on CEQA reports.
And finally, I was successful in getting a jurisdictional limit for Small Claims Court cases raised from $5,000 to $7,500 for individuals. Just as an example of how challenging it can be, that minor change in the law took two years of negotiations between the judicial counsel, consumer groups, insurance companies and everyone else you can imagine and a few you probably wouldn't even think of.
The issues that, unfortunately, are important to most residents are also of tremendous import to a lot of interest groups in and around the state, and that generally brings them all out. But that change has gone into effect; the judicial counsel has imposed rules, and that's available to the citizens.
I won't touch on the rest of the bills … other than to note that many of the bills that I introduced and worked on both in this session and the past dealt with efforts to reform the legislative process. Many of those bills were either never referred to committee - in violation of our own Assembly rules - or were short-lived.
But I'm pleased that they have been able to spark a discussion about how the legislature operates, how the budgets are approved, and how the state conducts its business when it imposes rules on local governments and then fails to live by those very rules.
For example, one of the simple efforts I undertook to record legislative proceedings, just as you record yours, was killed in the Rules Committee because there was a concern that people might misunderstand if portions of the hearing were taken out of context. Well, that argument could be made about any process.
But the fact that you can go to almost city in the state and get records of a planning commission meeting but can't go to the legislature and get a copy of a hearing of an important bill, is really, I think, a remarkable statement of how the state fails to recognize the requirements that it imposes on local governments are also good to be imposed on itself.
It's been my pleasure and privilege to represent Antioch and the 11th District in the state Assembly these last six years. Antioch has always been an active and certainly interesting place to represent. We have not always agreed, but when we have disagreed it has been in a professional way. You have represented your city's interests well and actively.
I want to acknowledge the efforts of your council members as well in the League of Cities because they have been there in Sacramento when issues have come about. I want to thank you for your help, cooperation and support over the past few years.