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New Gas Tax Portends a Price Hike at Harbors

Legi-Tech News Service

The 9,200 commercial ships and cargo vessels that steam into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach every year face the prospect of paying millions of additional dollars for fuel because of a state sales tax scheduled to take effect at the end of 1997.

The last time California slapped a tax on marine bunker fuel was in 1991 at the height of the state’s budget crisis. Fuel sales at the state’s two busiest ports plummeted by 60%. The state quickly reversed itself the following year, reinstating the tax exemption for a five-year period that ends in 1997.

Today, sales of bunker fuel ring in at approximately $375 million a year at California’s major commercial ports: San Diego, Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland and Ventura.

According to a study prepared last month for the Pacific Merchant Shipping Assn., reinstating the 8.25% tax would slash fuel sales by 50% and hurt local support services and industries that benefit from refueling stops.

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Meanwhile, the state Department of Finance says California would collect $11 million in tax revenue within just six months of reinstating the sales tax.

The Assembly’s Revenue and Taxation committee is scheduled to take up the issue March 10, when it considers a bill seeking a permanent sales-tax exemption on the fuel.

APPOINTMENTS * Steven Nagelberg of Thousand Oaks has been appointed to the Industrial Medical Council, which regulates the medical evaluation process for workers’ compensation insurance claims. Nagelberg, 42, is a surgeon with the Southwest Orthopedic Medical Corp. No salary. No Senate confirmation required.

* Maxene Johnston of Beverly Hills has been reappointed to the Council to Promote Business Ownership by Women. Johnston, 53, is a partner and vice president of Ray & Berndtson, an executive search firm in Los Angeles. No salary. No Senate confirmation required.

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* Kristen Schwenkmeyer of Hermosa Beach has been reappointed to the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation, which oversees the state’s workers’ compensation insurance system. Schwenkmeyer, 38, is co-owner in the telemarketing firm Gordon & Schwenkmeyer Inc. No salary. No Senate confirmation required.

These appointments were made recently by Senate President Pro-tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward).

HOT BILLS Digital Arts Program * Digital Curriculum (AB 428)

Would create a pilot digital animation curriculum at Glendale Community College in partnership with the digital animation industry. Funding would come in equal parts from industry and the state’s general fund. Support is likely from the entertainment industry. Opposition is likely from legislators who may feel the college should pay for the program itself. Author: Scott Wildman (D-Glendale)

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* Sick Leave (AB 480)

Would require employers to let their employees take sick leave days in order to care for a sick child, parent or spouse. The law would apply only to those employers who already allow sick leave. The bill is likely to draw support from labor as well as family and children advocates. Author: Wally Knox (D-Los Angeles)

* Drug-Related Evictions (AB 474)

Would speed up the eviction process for tenants believed to be using or selling illegal drugs. This bill is sponsored by the California Apartment Assn. of California. Opposition is likely from tenant-rights and civil-rights advocates. Author: Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles)

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Please send comments about Capitol Matters via e-mail to cyndia.zwahlen@latimes.com


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