Tag Archives: Assembly

Gatto Bill Would Force Hit-and-Run Offenders Off California Roadways

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank) continued his efforts to curb the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in Southern California, by introducing legislation that increases the penalties for people who leave the scene of an accident.

Gatto’s bill, AB 1532, would expand hit-and-run penalties to include automatic license revocation for motorists who flee the scene of any accident involving another person, even if the victim’s injuries are minor.  Right now, there are few consequences for hit-and-run offenders whose victims are lucky enough to walk away with only minor injuries.  Current law creates serious consequences, including license revocation, for individuals who commit a hit-and-run that results in death or serious bodily injury.

“The only way to know if you hurt someone is to stop.  The only way to get someone medical help is to stop,” said Assemblyman Gatto.  “Allowing drivers who don’t stop to keep their license, adds insult to their victim’s injuries.”

Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, noted that bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to hit-and-run collisions.  “Stopping and rendering aid after a collision is the most basic duty of a motorist,” said Bruins.  “Failing to do so can be the difference between scrapes and bruises and a serious injury or fatality.  Anyone who flees the scene of an accident has demonstrated in the most cowardly way possible that they do not have the judgment necessary to keep their driving privileges.”

AB 1532 is a continuation of efforts by Assemblyman Gatto to address the epidemic of hit-and-runs in Los Angeles County and across California.  Last year, Gatto authored AB 184, which extended the statute of limitations to prosecute hit-and-run drivers.  The Los Angeles Police Department records 20,000 hit-and-run crashes are recorded annually.  And State data shows that 4,000 hit-and-run incidents a year in Los Angeles lead to injury or death.  2014 has already been a deadly year, as a 24-year-old veterinary student was killed in a hit-and-run in Northridge just last week.

Other hit-and-run victims are continuing the healing process.  Damian Kevitt was struck by a mini-van while on his bicycle and dragged more than a quarter-mile down the Interstate 5 Freeway in Los Angeles last February.  The collision resulted in dozens of broken bones and the amputation of one of Kevitt’s legs.  Kevitt recently announced that he will be finishing the ride he started last year at an event on April 27, 2014 to raise awareness for hit-and-run victims and challenged athletes.   The suspect who hit him remains at large.

“AB 1532 will give victims of hit-and-runs solace, knowing that cowards who drive recklessly, and purposefully avoid responsibility for their actions, are no longer driving the streets,” said Assemblyman Gatto.  “This is a sensible fix to the law that will lead people to think twice before leaving the scene of an accident.”

Gatto Town Hall Gives Answers to Questions

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who represents Burbank as part of the 43rd Assembly District, held a Town Hall for residents at the Little White Chapel on Saturday afternoon. Extra chairs were brought out for large crowd of residents that came from all over the district, although a majority of the questions came from Burbank residents.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto talks about his recent accomplishments

Assemblyman Mike Gatto talks about his recent accomplishments

Gatto started out by talking about the recent session and accomplishments including 18 bills that were passed that he had a part in as either the author or was one of the co-authors  The Assemblyman touted his AB 227, which would help protect frivolous lawsuits to small businesses because of loopholes in Proposition 65.

Other major bills that he authored included the way municipalities handled broken parking meters and a revision to the law that gives authorities more time to arrest hit and run suspects.

While he has had his successes, there is still one area that he continues his fight, which is the availability of car pol lanes in non peak hours.  His last attempt was vetoed by the Governor although the same set of rules already apply to Northern California.  He will be taking up the fight again.

A resident addresses Mike Gatto during the Town Hall at the Little White Chapel (Photos By Craig Sherwood)

A resident addresses Mike Gatto during the Town Hall at the Little White Chapel (Photos By Craig Sherwood)

Residents were selected at random and their topics were many, with some being local as well as national in scope.  Gatto had knowledge of each subject thrown at him and sometimes was able to give the audience a short history lesson about some of the origins behind the laws and decisions.

Questions included the death penalty, campaign finance reform, in home care for seniors, rent stabilization in California, Caltrans and the I-5 construction, gravel trucks being covered during transportation, banking laws and why texting laws while driving can’t be more severe.

As simple as the question was, it seemed to hit a cord when it came to texting.  The speaker made the point that if you drive in a car pool lane without a passenger, the fine is around $400 and you risk no one’s lives, yet if you drive and text, you are risking lives and the fine is only $20.

Other topics included the Do Not Call list, concerns about illegals who can now get a drivers license not having insurance, runaway film production, Federal money for rail projects, think tanks about spending future money, teaching administrator salaries, two thirds majority in passing budgets (which is no longer a requirement), standardized testing in schools, overtaxed and over regulated rules on businesses and Prop. 13.

While it was clearly a wide ranging conversation, many of the items are somewhat addressable while some are issues that the federal government has control of.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto had answers to all questions during the Town Hall meeting.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto had answers to all questions during the Town Hall meeting.

Gatto explained that hopefully California is out of the financial situtauion that has crippled the State in recent years and does not anticipate any more cuts to existing programs and hopes that funding will eventually be restored to some of those cut.

When responding to some residents concerns of laws not being followed he responded, “We don’t always need new laws, just better enforcement of the laws in place’.  It does seem that Caltrans, however, does not always follow the law on some projects and is a sore spot of Gatto.

“Caltrans is a tremendous source of frustration for both my family and myself. I am constantly talking to Caltrans (regarding their actions and policies).” About some of the everyday problems that frustrate residents, there was agreement, “Small things are often the biggest nuisance in life”, said Gatto.

In all, there were no confrontations and people were there to have their opinions heard and their questions answered.  No one walked away without an answer and there were plenty of staff members on hand to make sure that individual concerns were met afterward.

Near the end, one resident was worried about the possible loss of Prop.13, to which the Assemblyman said quickly and with authority, “Proposition 13 is not going anywhere soon”.

Gatto’s Bill To Protect Communities From Contaminated Properties Signed into Law

Communities struggling with decaying and contaminated properties now have a new tool to revitalize these sites, thanks to Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Los Angeles) AB 440. The bill passed the Legislature in September, and has now been signed into law by Governor Brown.

Changes to state law in 2011 terminated local governments’ ability to clean up contaminated properties (known as “brownfields”) and recover the costs of contamination from the responsible party. Gatto’s bill restores this authority by explicitly granting local governments these powers. The bill also adds protections for public health by ensuring a robust investigation for pollutants, and vigilant oversight. Lastly, the bill protects taxpayers and innocent purchasers from liability for unanticipated contamination, providing the certainty needed to obtain financing to clean up a brownfield.

“With this new law, the state provides the tools to get rid of those empty lots and shuttered factories that blight our neighborhoods,” said Gatto. “This legislation will foster infill projects, instead of pushing new developments onto pristine open spaces. Without these powers, sites would remain abandoned and continue to contaminate the surrounding community. Now we have a chance to clean them up.”

AB 440 has inspired a rare showing of bipartisan and cross-sector unity, with organized labor, business organizations, local governments, and environmental advocates all expressing support. The Burbank City Council, in its letter urging legislative approval of the bill, applauded AB 440 for ensuring that “local agencies have continued access to a brownfields remediation tool that has proven so valuable in the past.” Several properties have been successfully remediated using similar powers in the past, including the MTA orange-line busway in the San Fernando Valley, which replaced a contaminated railroad right-of-way with a hybrid-powered busway system, bike path, and pedestrian walkway.

“I am glad the Governor has recognized, as I have, the need to give local governments weapons in the battle to reinvigorate the economy and local neighborhoods while updating our cities for the 21st century,” Gatto commented, after the Governor signed AB 440. “This law will be crucial for cities looking to replace abandoned businesses and lots with new housing, green transportation, and urban parks. This law will do a lot of good.”

Gatto Announces Film and Tax Credit Legislation

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) announced today that they will introduce a comprehensive film- and television-production tax credit and other related policies in the 2014 legislative session. Gatto and De León expect to introduce the bill in January 2014, when the legislature returns from interim recess. Since the passage of the last film-tax credit, Gatto and De León have been meeting tirelessly with all affected parties, to try to determine how to improve California’s policies. The Appropriations committees of each house are the final stops for all fiscal legislation before it hits the Senate or Assembly floor.

Film and television production jobs are especially important in Gatto’s district, which includes the cities of Burbank, Glendale, and Hollywood, communities that are home to numerous film and television studios and post-production facilities, including world-renowned studios DreamWorks, Disney, Universal, and Warner Bros. The vitality of the California entertainment industry determines the livelihood for thousands of workers in the industry who live in Gatto’s and De León’s districts. Both Gatto and De León are close with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has made revamping the tax credit a major policy push.

“I remember when our communities lost all the good aerospace jobs,” said Gatto. “Losing major employers really harms the local economy, so we must do everything possible to make sure that good jobs stay right here.” Gatto is the California State Assembly’s representative on the California Film Commission. The Commission offers production and location assistance, and administers the tax credit.

In the last several months, Gatto and De León have focused their meetings with “below-the-line” workers and local small production professionals affected by the flight of investment. Gatto’s staff has also been collecting think-tank reports and all studies available, to evaluate what works best in the current credit and what needs to be improved to maximize its effectiveness.

“Given the vulnerable state of our economy we can’t afford to hemorrhage any more good paying jobs,” said Senator De Leόn. “First thing in 2014, we need to extend the film tax credit and improve it to maximize job retention and bolster this home-grown industry. I look forward to partnering with Assemblyman Gatto on this effort.”

Senator De León and Assemblyman Gatto invite the public to share their thoughts on how to make the tax credit work best.

“We look forward to hearing from constituents from all sectors of the entertainment community to find out how we can make the tax credit work more effectively to improve and expand California’s economy,” said Gatto.

Gatto’s Comprehensive Anti-Swatting Legislation Passes Public Safety Committee

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s  legislation to criminalize the dangerous and increasingly prevalent crime known as “swatting”, cleared a major legislative hurdle today, passing the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a unanimous vote of 7-0.  Swatting is a perilous prank by anonymous mischief-makers who alert police to a bogus crime situation, prompting a tactical response — sometimes by special weapons and tactics (SWAT) officers — that then involves a high-risk search for phantom assailants.  AB 47 is the legislature’s most comprehensive legislation to address the issue, and the only pending bill to increase criminal penalties for swatting.

AB 47 would increase the criminal fines and penalties for anyone who makes a call to 911 resulting in the deployment of police personnel when no emergency exists.  Under the provisions of the bill, anyone who makes such a call would be subject to a $2,000 fine and a year in jail, and significantly increased fine and jail time if the call results in bodily harm.  Finally, the bill stipulates that any swatting call that results in a death can be considered manslaughter.  Assemblyman Gatto introduced AB 47 on December 19, 2012, even before the recent spate of high-profile swatting incidents.

There have been more than a dozen such calls in the last five months and several law enforcement officers have already been injured.  Many officials, including Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, fear that it’s only a matter of time before events turn deadly.  The calls thus far have been focused on humiliating celebrities like Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, and in at least one case, to harm a blogger based on his political ideology.

“Swatting is a dangerous prank and a serious drain of public-safety resources away from real emergencies,” said Gatto.   “This bill is not just about protecting folks like Justin Bieber.  It’s about protecting kids playing in the street when emergency vehicles needlessly speed by.  It’s about protecting homeowners and law enforcement when a house is needlessly stormed.”

“Police fear that this potential deadly prank will become more prevalent if we do not do something to elevate ‘swatting’ to a serious crime.  This common-sense legislation will discourage this dangerous activity and allow law enforcement to deploy their officers and precious resources to real crimes-in-progress.”

Mike Gatto honors Burbank Resident at State Capitol’s Holocaust Remembrance Day

The poetry of Burbank resident David Meyerhof, child of holocaust survivors, has been read around the world, and yesterday, was read by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) on the floor of the California State Assembly. Meyerhof’s poetry was featured at the State Capitol’s Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony, at the request of Gatto.  The ceremony honors Holocaust survivors, liberators, and the children of survivors.

Holocaust CeremonyMeyerhof, a retired-middle-school teacher who taught for 33 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District, is the child of two Holocaust survivors.  During the ceremony, Assemblyman Gatto spoke of the courage of Meyerhof’s parents, and all Holocaust survivors, and described how generations now have used art – music, films, paintings, novels, and poetry – to better fathom the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.  The Assemblyman then read one of Meyerhof’s poems aloud to the chamber.

Another of Meyerhof’s poems,  “My Mother,” was distributed at the ceremony.  It tells the tale of Meyerhof’s mother fleeing Germany in the aftermath of Kristallnacht (Crystal night) when the Nazis attacked Jews walking on the street, threw over 30,000 Jews in concentration camps, and smashed the windows of Jewish homes, schools, businesses, and synagogues until the ground was filled with so much glass it looked like crystals.

After their escape from Germany, Meyerhof’s mother took care of children in Anna Freud’s Nursery in London until his parents immigrated to the United States. His father went on to become a physics professor at Stanford University where he taught for 43 years.  The nation of Germany has now named a science research facility after Meyerhof’s father.

“It is an honor to share the story and the struggle of the Meyerhof family, and all the victims of the Holocaust, through David Meyerhof’s powerful poetry,” said Gatto.  “Often, those seeking to perpetuate the memories of a most difficult time for all humanity need to look no further than their own communities.  I am so honored that David Meyerhof could participate in the ceremony yesterday.”

Video Supplied By Mike Gatto’s office

04.09.2013 ACR 33
Click on link to watch

Gatto’s Bill to Address Hit and Run Epidemic Clears Public Safety Committee

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s bill to address the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in Southern California cleared its first legislative hurdle today, passing the Assembly Public Safety committee by a unanimous vote of 7-0.  The legislation, AB 184, provides an additional tool to law enforcement officers investigating hit-and-run offenses by extending the statute of limitations for such offenses to three years from the date of the offense, or one year after a possible suspect is identified by law enforcement, whichever is later.

Currently, motorists who flee the scene of an accident can simply “run down the clock” to avoid any liability whatsoever.  If a motorist is not identified (which is often very difficult) within three years, the motorist cannot be prosecuted.  The Legislature has passed similar changes to statutes of limitations for crimes with hard-to-identify perpetrators, like clergy abuse.

Los Angeles’s problems with hit-and-run accidents were evinced recently by a series of high-profile accidents in Gatto’s district.  Just one month after Gatto introduced the legislation, Damien Kevitt was struck by a mini-van while riding his bicycle and dragged more than a quarter mile, down Interstate 5.  The collision resulted in dozens of broken bones and the amputation of one of Kevitt’s legs.

“Damien Kevitt is just one of thousands hit-and-run victims who suffer life-threatening injuries annually,” said Gatto.  “Allowing the perpetrators to avoid prosecution just adds insult to these injuries.  AB 184 will allow victims and law enforcement to obtain justice.”

Eric Bruins, Planning & Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, noted that bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to hit-and-run collisions that result in death or serious bodily injury.  “It’s hard for us to encourage people to bike and walk, when our streets are treated like the Wild West,” said Bruins.  “The LA County Bicycle Coalition commends Assemblyman Gatto for bringing attention to this issue and giving hit-and-run victims hope that their perpetrators might be brought to justice once identified.”

“This is a relatively easy and sensible fix to the law,” said Gatto.  “Presuming my bill becomes law, my hope is that people who would otherwise flee the scene of an accident realize that they can be prosecuted, no matter how long it takes.”

AB 184 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Gatto Introduces Legislation to Better Manage Carpool Lanes

It’s happened to anyone who lives in Southern California.  A late-night accident or mysterious slowing clogs the rightmost freeway lanes, while the carpool lane sits empty.  Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) has introduced Assembly Bill 405, a measure that will create a pilot program of sorts to ease such traffic congestion by permitting single-occupancy vehicles to access the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes (also known as carpool lanes) on State Highway Route 134, during non-peak hours.

A recent CalTrans report indicated that Southern California’s HOV lanes are not being utilized to capacity during non-peak hours, leaving single-passenger vehicles idling in slow-going or stand-still lanes.  Unlike Northern California, where HOV lane restrictions are in place only during peak commute hours, HOV lanes in Southern California, including those on the 134 Freeway, are restricted on a 24-hour basis.

Gatto explained that “carpool lanes are intended to increase the capacities of our freeways, reward those who carpool during rush hour, and protect the surrounding environment from harmful exhaust.  When motorists are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic at midnight while carpool lanes sit empty, none of those goals are being met.  It just doesn’t make sense.”

Gatto’s measure would require Caltrans to allow single-passenger vehicles to access the HOV lanes on a five mile stretch of the 134 Freeway between the 170 Freeway and Interstate 5 during non-peak hours.

“The current restriction of HOV lanes to only high-occupancy vehicles or to those who can afford high-efficiency vehicles is an ineffective way to operate these lanes outside of rush hour,” said Gatto.  “California’s highway system needs to remain flexible, especially in areas where people drive the freeways at all times.”  Many commuters along the 134 corridor, which links the 101 Freeway to Pasadena and beyond, do not work traditional hours.

Gatto is also overseeing an effort with state and local agencies to investigate ways to address administratively the underutilization of HOV lanes in the region.

“Traffic congestion is almost always bad during rush hour; it need not be bad all night long,” said Gatto.

Gatto Bill Would Help Burbank Get Dog Park

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill today to help local governments create dog parks for their residents.  Under current law, cities often hesitate to open dog parks because dog parks can subject cities to massive liability from litigants who claim, for example, that they were unaware of the potential dangers (i.e., dog bites) that can occur at such parks.  Gatto’s AB 265 limits liability for cities and counties that operate dog parks.  Cities must post signs to warn users that they enter a dog park at their own risk, and, because most cities do not patrol dog parks, that the city is not responsible for injuries suffered by park goers or their pets.

The idea for the bill came from a local city councilmember, who expressed to Gatto that cities would open more dog parks, but for the liability concerns.  “Apparently, large cities and counties can ‘self-insure’ and absorb any potential liability,” said Gatto, “but for smaller and mid-size cities, the liability concerns are a major barrier to improving the lives of dog lovers.”

There is precedent for the state stepping in to limit liability for the public good, especially for the use of public resources that come with some inherent danger.  In 1997, the state imposed limited liability under certain circumstances for cities that open skate parks.  Policymakers reasoned then that more recreation opportunities were needed, but that since skateboardingis inherently dangerous, it should be done at the users’ risk and without massive liability for cities and their taxpayers.

“By offering our communities a more sensible set of laws on this issue, we can help make more dogs parks available in more neighborhoods,” said Gatto.

Gatto Bill Makes it Harder for Hit & Run Drivers to Evade Arrest

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-43) introduced legislation today to help curb the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in Southern California.  Currently, motorists who flee the scene of an accident can simply “run down the clock” to avoid any liability whatsoever.  If a motorist is not identified (which is often very difficult) within three years, the motorist cannot be prosecuted.  Gatto’s bill extends the statute of limitations for such offenses to three years from the date of the offense, or one year after the suspect is identified by law enforcement, whichever is later.  The Legislature has passed similar changes to statutes of limitations for crimes with hard-to-identify perpetrators, like clergy abuse.

Eric Bruins, Planning & Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, noted that bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to hit-and-run collisions that result in death or serious bodily injury.  “It’s hard for us to encourage people to bike and walk when our streets are treated like the Wild West,” said Bruins.  “The LA County Bicycle Coalition commends Assemblyman Gatto for bringing attention to this issue and giving hit-and-run victims hope that their perpetrators might be brought to justice once identified.”

“Many hit-and-run victims suffer very serious injuries, often because they are unable to dial 9-1-1, and, of course, because the person fleeing the scene does not.  Allowing hit-and-run criminals to avoid prosecution just adds insult to these injuries,” said Gatto.

An investigation by the LA Weekly found about 20,000 hit-and-run crashes are recorded annually by the Los Angeles Police Department.  These 20,000 incidents made up an astonishing 48 percent of all vehicle crashes in 2009, compared to an average rate of just 11 percent nationwide.  State data shows that 4,000 hit-and-run incidents a year in Los Angeles lead to injury or death.  Unfortunately, most of these incidents are never prosecuted, in part, because of the statute of limitations running out.

“This is a relatively easy and sensible fix to the law, so that people who would otherwise hit-and-run realize that they will be prosecuted, no matter how long it takes.”