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California Senate OKs bills on tenants, farmworkers, personal trainers, car seats

State senators acted Thursday to protect tenants when homes are lost in foreclosure, make it easier for farmworkers to unionize and make it harder for unqualified people to pass themselves off as professional personal trainers.

They also approved a proposal to keep young children out of the front seats of cars.

The measures passed the upper house over the objections of minority Republicans, who complain that California has become a “nanny” state, regulating too much of people’s lives. The proposals await action in the Assembly.

SB 789 would give farmworkers an alternative way to form a union: Instead of holding an election with secret ballots, workers could submit cards, signed by a majority of the workers asking for representation, to state labor authorities. The cards could be filled in at workers’ homes with a union organizer present and helping, and could be collected by the organizers.

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This method would make it easier for the workers to obtain representation, said the legislation’s author, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

“This bill is designed so they can fairly choose whether they want union organization or not,” Steinberg said.

Opponents cited some of the same concerns that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stated when he vetoed a similar proposal in 2007.

“It creates a card-check system ripe with opportunities for union organizers to coerce, intimidate and threaten workers to join a union,” said Senate minority leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta).

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The Senate also was divided on a measure to protect people who hire personal trainers.

“I was amazed that virtually anyone can call themselves a personal trainer, regardless of their education or lack thereof,” said Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), author of SB 374. “People who train improperly can be injured for life.”

The measure would prohibit people from representing themselves as personal trainers without certification from a recognized national group or a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, kinesiology, fitness science or a closely related field.

Hollingsworth said the proposal would merely create red tape that could make it hard for people to find personal trainers in the future.

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“This type of thing creates a scarcity,” Hollingsworth said. “There’s little evidence that we need this bill.”

Republican lawmakers also balked at SB 120, by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), which is aimed at protecting renters in homes that are foreclosed upon.

The measure would bar a bank or person who takes a home in foreclosure from cutting off utility service, changing locks or removing a resident’s personal belongings as a way to terminate a tenancy.

Lowenthal said the bill would “provide some relief for tenants who become victims of California’s foreclosure crisis.”

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Lowenthal also failed to get Republican support for a proposal intended to reduce child deaths in car accidents. Current law says children younger than 6 or weighing less than 60 pounds must ride in car seats in the backs of vehicles unless all rear seats are occupied by children under 12.

His bill, SB 177, would allow a child 6 or younger in the front only when all back seats are occupied by children under age 8.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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