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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 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 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.

Schiff, Feinstein, Boxer Introduce Bill to Regulate Helicopter Traffic over Neighborhoods

Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation today that would require the Federal Aviation Administration to provide Los Angeles County residents relief from the noise and safety concerns caused by low-flying helicopters above residential neighborhoods.

The Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act would establish regulations on flight paths and minimum altitudes for helicopter operations in Los Angeles County. Feinstein and Schiff hope that the legislation will prompt the FAA to act, and if passed, will require the agency to finally address numerous resident complaints. They were joined by other Los Angeles congressional colleagues, including Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

“Los Angeles area residents living in Glendale, Pasadena, the Valley, the Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood and other areas are especially affected by intrusive, disruptive and often non-emergency related helicopter traffic above their neighborhoods,” said Congressman Schiff. “The terrain of canyons around the Rose Bowl concentrates low-flying helicopter noise to high levels, and Hollywood Hills and West Hollywood residents frequently suffer from noise generated by celebrity news media that follow stars to the beach, the grocery store, or for court appearances. The residents in these areas deserve peace and quiet, and if the FAA won’t act, Congress must pass this legislation to give residents the relief they need.”

“LA County residents suffer from high levels of disruptive, low-flying helicopter traffic over their neighborhoods. This bill would address that problem by requiring the FAA to create regulations for how helicopters operate in the skies above Los Angeles,” said Senator Feinstein. “In addition to reducing noise, this bill would increase safety and minimize commercial aircraft delays while exempting first responders and military aircraft from its limitations. I look forward to working with Congressman Schiff and Senator Boxer to get this bill passed.

“This legislation will ensure that the FAA sets responsible guidelines that allow helicopters to continue to operate above Los Angeles while protecting residents from excessive noise associated with low-altitude flights,” said Senator Boxer.

“I hear complaints about helicopter noise from every part of the 33rd District—from Malibu to Brentwood to Benedict Canyon,” said Congressman Waxman. “FAA regulation of the thunderous helicopter traffic over LA is long overdue.  And if the FAA won’t act, Congress must.”

“I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to urge the FAA to implement enforceable measures that provide meaningful more relief for Valley communities impacted by helicopter noise and to protect the safety of aircraft in the crowded skies above our metropolitan area,” said Congressman Sherman. “The active participation of the FAA, community leaders and the helicopter industry can also help lead to substantial progress in developing solutions to better balance public safety and relief from excessive helicopter noise.”

Last year, Schiff and Feinstein wrote to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urging him to form a working group at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to solicit input from local communities and stakeholders on helicopter noise and safety issues across Los Angeles County. For the past year, that working group has been meeting with local residents, stakeholders and officials to discuss ways to move forward and adequately address the concerns and complaints of affected residents.

Under the legislation sponsored by Schiff, Feinstein and Boxer, the FAA would be required to exercise its legal authority to set guidelines on flight paths and minimum altitudes for helicopter operators in residential areas in Los Angeles County within 12 months of being signed into law. Exemptions would be provided for law enforcement, emergency responders and the U.S. military.

“I’m heartened that Congressman Schiff and Senator Feinstein will be taking up the mantle of helicopter noise regulation next year. They have been steadfast partners with me on the LA Helicopter Noise Relief Act,” said former Congressman Howard Berman. “Los Angeles County residents should know that they will have an important voice in Washington who will continue to fight for common sense reforms to protect their safety and quality of life from intrusive helicopter flights.”

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.”

Schiff Takes Up the Fight to Curb Helicopter Noise

After a meeting today between regional Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) representatives and local stakeholders, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) continued his call on the agency to provide Los Angeles County residents relief from the noise and safety concerns caused by low-flying helicopters above residential neighborhoods.

“While I appreciate the FAA’s willingness to engage residents and hear their concerns directly, it is plain that voluntary actions will not be sufficient to address the real quality of life and safety issues raised by these persistent fly-overs,” said Rep. Schiff.  “Residents living throughout Los Angeles are deeply impacted by the intrusive, disruptive and often non-emergency related helicopter traffic above their homes and neighborhoods. The canyons and mountains across our region concentrate the low-flying helicopter noise to extremely high levels. Add to that the problem of tourist and press helicopters tracking celebrities in the Hollywood Hills and West Hollywood or perusing the Rose Bowl, and you have a significant impact on the quality of life of thousands of constituents. The residents in these areas deserve peace and quiet, and I will be taking up the legislation shepherded by Congressman Berman in the new session of Congress.”

After the meeting, Schiff announced he will re-introduce the Los Angeles Helicopter Noise Relief Act.  This bill requires the FAA to exercise its legal authority to regulate helicopter operations above Los Angeles within 12 months of being signed into law. Specifically, the bill calls on the Administrator of the FAA to set guidelines on flight paths and minimum altitudes for helicopter operators in residential areas of Los Angeles County. Exemptions would be allowed for law enforcement, emergency responders, and the US military.

“I’m heartened that Congressman Schiff will be taking up the mantle of helicopter noise regulation next year. He has been a steadfast partner with me on the LA Helicopter Noise Relief Act,” said Rep. Howard Berman. “Los Angeles County residents should know that they will have an important voice in Washington who will continue to fight for common sense reforms to protect their safety and quality of life from intrusive helicopter flights.”

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s Water Conservation Bill Clears Final Legislative Hurdle with Bipartisan Support

A key water-conservation bill introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) passed the Legislature on Wednesday with strong, bipartisan support. The bill has cleared its final legislative hurdle and now awaits the signature of Governor Jerry Brown. AB 2230 requires new carwashes in California to use at least 60% recycled water. Carwashes are among the biggest users of water around, but they also use water that by its nature (not to be ingested or used for agriculture), could come ideally from a recycled source. A state task force on water conservation estimates that this simple requirement will conserve enough water to supply 46,000 California families with water each year.

California has struggled for years to establish standards to reduce water waste and compel homeowners to install higher efficiency toilets and showers, but AB 2230 is the first step to adopt a sensible policy for a major commercial use. “Rather than spraying gallons of valuable drinking water on a mud-crusted jeep, it makes better sense to use water that has already cycled through a carwash but has been stripped of detergents and dirt,” said Gatto. “This is therefore a sensible and significant way to conserve water.”

Recycled water technology for car washes is readily available and easy to install. 25% of car washes in California have already installed the necessary equipment. Simple on-site water-recycling systems allow conveyor and in-bay car washes to reclaim water used to wash cars, filter it, and reuse it in the early stages of subsequent washes, when the quality of the water is less important.

AB 2230 now moves to the Governor for signature. “I believe the common sense and pragmatism behind this bill is why it has received such strong, bipartisan support in both the Assembly and Senate,” said Gatto. “I hope the Governor signs it into law.”

Schiff Introduces Legislation to Protect Families from Chromium 6 in Drinking Water

Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) continued his campaign to establish limits on Chromium 6 in drinking water by introducing the Protecting Pregnant Women and Children From Hexavalent Chromium Act. The bill would establish a deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set an enforceable drinking water safeguard for Chromium 6. Schiff’s legislation is the House companion bill to S. 79 introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

Hexavalent chromium can present a dangerous cancer risk in drinking water especially in young children. Schiff recently called on EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to complete that agency’s Chromium 6 toxicology assessment without further delay. In the absence of EPA action, local water agencies may not take the steps necessary to protect millions of children and families across the country from the harmful effects of Chromium 6.

“We need to light a fire under the federal and state government to finally take action on Chromium 6,” said Schiff. “The National Institute of Health’s National Toxicology Program study — considered the gold standard — established many years ago that Chromium 6 was hazardous, harmful and carcinogenic. And yet, the problem has still to be addressed.

“This legislation will require the EPA to establish a national standard for Chromium 6 in a timely manner, and protect local communities from this dangerous carcinogen. It’s time to take a major step forward and ensure that children and families in California and across the country have access to safe drinking water.”

In 2001, Rep. Schiff spearheaded an effort to commission the study by the National Toxicology Program. The study found that high doses of Chromium 6 in drinking water cause cancer in lab rodents. The link between Chromium 6 and cancer garnered national attention after the release of the movie “Erin Brockovich” in 2000. Congressman Schiff has long worked to keep Chromium 6 out of drinking water, dating back to his work in the California State Senate.

As a State Senator, he sponsored a bill requiring the California Department of Health Services to prepare a report on the amount of Chromium 6 in the San Fernando Valley aquifer and the danger it poses to residents. Additionally, Rep. Schiff has secured more than a million and a half dollars to develop technology capable of removing heavy metals such as Chromium 6 from drinking water in Glendale. Last month, Schiff also called on California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Director Ron Chapman to move quickly to establish a Maximum Containment Level (MCL) for Chromium 6.

Before treatment, underground water from some local Los Angeles County wells contains between 45 and 70 parts per billion of Chromium 6. It was also recently announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency planned to install 30 wells in the Glendale-Burbank area this month to monitor levels of Chromium 6 in underground water.

Schiff’s legislation would require the EPA to set a health advisory for the chemical 90 days after the bill becomes law that is protective of pregnant women, infants, and children, and provides an adequate margin of safety. It would also require the EPA to set a federal drinking water standard within 12 months. There is currently a federal drinking water standard of 100 parts per billion of total chromium — which contains both harmful chromium 6 and less dangerous chromium 3 — but currently there is no state or national drinking water standard for chromium 6.