Port funds could be diverted
Money collected in Los Angeles County to clean up its polluted ports would be shared with the Central Valley under a proposal by the Schwarzenegger administration that is drawing opposition from Southern California leaders.
Sponsors of legislation that would charge shippers about $60 a container in the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland had intended to use the money in areas close to those cities’ ports to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.
But after the bill passed both legislative houses, aides to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed last-minute changes that would funnel some of the money to a statewide transportation fund and the California Air Resources Board, which could use it in areas such as the Central Valley, which suffers poor air quality from traffic, agriculture and other sources.
“Do we believe the Central Valley has huge problems that need help? Yes,” said state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), author of SB 974. “Do we believe that emasculating this bill to meet those needs will meet anyone’s needs? No.”
Lowenthal said he hoped for a compromise, but vowed to fight the changes even if it meant risking a veto by putting the bill, as passed, on the governor’s desk.
“Their amendments go further than we are willing to go,” he said. “It puts the bill in jeopardy.”
Fresno Mayor Alan Autry said he had been pushing the governor to make sure the fees helped the whole state.
“Pollution doesn’t stop at the port,” Autry said. “Most of those trucks will be loaded and drive right through the San Joaquin Valley.”
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants the money to stay where it is generated, said Matt Szabo, a spokesman.
“Any amendments to the legislation must preserve local control over container fees and ensure that the revenue is dedicated to the region where it is collected,” Szabo said.
A Schwarzenegger spokeswoman declined to discuss specific proposals. “It is not a practice of ours to negotiate legislation in the media,” said Rachel Cameron. “However, I want to stress that our office has been working with the senator for nearly a year.”
“It’s very troubling,” Tim Carmichael, senior policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, said of the proposed amendments.
The two sides are scheduled to meet today.
On Wednesday, the Senate went through 382 bills and resolutions, deferring action on many of them but approving others as it hopes to wrap up action by the end of this month.
The Senate approved a measure by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) that would require public exhibits that display plasticized human bodies to get permission from the next of kin.
AB 1519 was approved on a 24-10 vote. “It’s a matter of decency,” said Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro).
Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) opposed the bill. “This is a disservice to the citizens of California who now have to go to another state to see this kind of display,” he said.
The Senate also voted to approve a requirement that patients be given a physical exam before elective surgery.
Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto) said she wrote AB 2968 in response to the 2007 death of Donda West, the mother of the Grammy-winning rap musician Kanye West, from complications related to cosmetic surgery. “I think this bill will save lives,” Carter said. “If this had been the law, the surgeon would not have allowed her to have surgery.”
Finally, the Assembly passed a measure that would fine drivers $20 for typing, reading or sending text messages while driving. The vote on SB 28 by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) split along party lines. Democrats said text-messaging is as much a distraction as using a cellphone, which was outlawed in the state last month. Minority Republicans rejected the measure as government interference.
Times staff writer Nancy Vogel contributed to this report.