Brown sets deadline for Exide plant on hazardous waste

Crews remove soil from the front and rear yards at the first of several homes in the Boyle Heights area where high levels of lead were found due to contamination by the Exide Technologies battery plant, photographed on August 11, 2014.
Crews remove soil from the front and rear yards at the first of several homes in the Boyle Heights area where high levels of lead were found due to contamination by the Exide Technologies battery plant, photographed on August 11, 2014.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

In a wide range of bill signings Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown approved measures to expand privacy rights for students online and crack down on ill-behaved professional sports team owners.

He also signed a bill setting a deadline for Exide Technologies’ battery recycling plant in Vernon to comply with hazardous-waste laws, while vetoing broader changes to the state’s toxic substances regulator.

Scores of bills still await Brown’s consideration before a midnight Tuesday deadline to act on bills including several gun control proposals, a package of ethics-related measures and a proposed statewide ban on disposable plastic bags.

Brown signed a pair of bills Monday to protect children who use the Internet. One bars companies from using personal information about minor students obtained through Internet education websites and mobile applications for any purpose other than online education.


Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) introduced the bill, SB 1177, after noting that firms providing online programs to help classroom instruction typically require students to create accounts including such information as grades, disciplinary history and chat records. He said some companies are mining the data and could use it for commercial purposes.

“This is a win for kids, teachers and California’s booming ed-tech industry,” Steinberg said in a statement.

A second measure limits the type of information school districts can collect about students through social media.

That bill, AB 1442, by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) allows districts to collect and monitor only those social media postings that pertain to student or school safety. It requires districts to inform parents and students if they are collecting such information.

Under another new law, owners of professional sports teams will no longer be able to deduct league penalties from their taxes.

The bill was inspired by the record $2.5-million fine levied by the National Basketball Assn. on then-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, after his recorded comments about African Americans sparked a public uproar.

Soon afterward, Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) and Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) introduced the measure, AB 877, to bar franchise owners from writing off penalties as operating expenses.

“These fines are intended as punishments,” Bocanegra said, “and owners shouldn’t be rewarded with multimillion-dollar tax refunds.”

The Exide measure the governor signed requires the state Department of Toxic Substances Control to either grant the company a full hazardous-waste permit by the end of next year or shut the facility down.

The Vernon plant, which has been allowed to operate with a temporary permit, has repeatedly been cited by air quality authorities for emitting too much lead and arsenic.

“Residents from the communities surrounding the Exide facility have suffered for decades.... Enough is enough,” the author of SB 712, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), said in a statement.

The facility, about five miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, has been idle since March as the company upgrades its pollution controls under an agreement with air quality regulators.

The governor vetoed a bill intended to address problems in the toxics agency. The measure, SB 812 by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), would have overhauled its permitting of hazardous-waste facilities and established a citizens oversight committee, among other requirements.

In a veto message, Brown said more transparency and accountability were needed in the Department of Toxic Substances Control. But he said parts of the bill would have unintentionally delayed the department’s own plan to make changes, including a review of expired permits.

The governor also rejected a proposal aimed at helping small-franchise owners stay in business when their parent companies want them to close.

The measure, SB 610 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), would have barred corporations from putting a franchisee out of business unless the franchise owner had committed a “substantial and material breach” of the franchise agreement.

Brown’s veto message said he is open to changing franchise laws but needs more information about the franchisees’ problems so he doesn’t sign legislation that would create new ones.

Companies that opposed the bill included Jack in the Box Inc. Brown’s wife, Anne Gust Brown, owns more than $1 million in stock in the fast-food chain, according to the governor’s latest economic disclosures.

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor, said the investment was not a factor in Brown’s decision.

“Each bill is assessed on its own merit. The message accompanying the veto clearly articulates the reasons for this action,” Westrup said.

Brown also weighed in on the side of Los Angeles city and county management in a dispute with unions, which object to how the local governments select panels that rule on labor disputes.

The county Board of Supervisors last year changed its process for appointing the Employee Relations Commission, which rules on requests for arbitration and charges of unfair labor practices.

Formerly, labor leaders and management agreed on the selection of all three members. Under the new system, labor and management each pick one commissioner and the third is approved by both sides.

In the city, Mayor Eric Garcetti recently rescinded a process allowing unions to approve nominations to the city’s five-member Employee Relations Board.

City and county employee unions backed AB 1881 by Jones-Sawyer, which would have restored their power to screen all appointments. City and county officials said the bill would have infringed on local control; Brown agreed.

The governor also vetoed a measure that would have required property tax agents to register with the state, after Los Angeles County assessor John Noguez and a tax agent, Ramin Salari, were accused of illegally lowering property tax assessments and charged with corruption. In rejecting AB 2415 by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Brown acknowledged “serious misconduct in a limited number of cases” but said that did not justify a new registration program.

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Times staff writer Abby Sewell contributed to this report.