POLITICAL LANDSCAPE:

After seven years working its way in various forms through Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff’s Rim of the Valley Corridor Study, which could pave the way toward more than doubling the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, is finally on its way to the president’s desk.

The bill is included in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which the House of Representatives passed on Tuesday. The Rim of the Valley study passed the House in December, but it had to be reconciled with Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s sister legislation in the Senate. Feinstein’s bill passed on April 10.

Billed by supporters as a way to preserve open space in Los Angeles County for generations, the measure directs the secretary of the interior to study the feasibility of expanding the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to include additional portions of the mountains and canyons within the Rim of the Valley corridor. The Rim of the Valley consists of parts of the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Susanna Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, Verdugo Mountains, San Rafael Hills and adjacent connector areas to the Los Padres and San Bernardino national forests.

“What I’m encouraged by is, 30 years ago, Congress had the foresight to devote the recreation area in the first place because they saw a burgeoning population they knew would continue to grow, and they thought ahead in protecting and preserving this beautiful land. And now looking forward, the population is going to continue to grow, and the question is can we have the same foresight,” Schiff said.

President Bush’s administration has been supportive of the bill, so Schiff said he’s optimistic that it will soon become law.

While congressional opposition to the bill was minimal this year, some property rights advocacy groups including the American Land Rights Assn. have attacked the legislation, labeling it an attempt at a massive land grab and governmental attempt to curb development.

Still, even if the measure is approved by the president, the study itself could take up to three years, Schiff said. And if the Department of the Interior recommends expansion of the recreation area, such a move would require a subsequent act of Congress, Schiff said.

Schiff envisions such a recommendation leading to voluntary negotiations between the federal government and property owners for purchase of Rim of the Valley lands.

“A lot of folks that have private property want to sell it,” Schiff said. “Some don’t, and that’s fine; they won’t have to.”

Congressman targets intellectual property

In an effort to strengthen laws protecting creative and intellectual property, the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would boost federal enforcement efforts.

The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2007 includes two provisions by bill co-sponsor Rep. Adam Schiff, whose district includes Glendale and Burbank, aimed at strengthening prevention, enforcement and prosecution of intellectual-property-related crimes.

The measure has support from labor unions and industry groups because of the increasing global economic cost of counterfeiting and piracy, which is currently between $500 billion and $600 billion a year in lost sales and up to 7% of global trade, according to Schiff’s office.

“Intellectual property is not just the product of rock stars and movie stars.

It accounts for more than 11 million American jobs and is a driving force in our economy,” Schiff said in a statement.

“American intellectual property is utilized all around the world, and this bill will help ensure that American creators are compensated for the product of their labor and ingenuity.”

One of Schiff’s provisions in the bill would create a grant program for prevention, enforcement and prosecution of intellectual property theft and infringement cases.

The grants could be used to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in enforcing such crimes and to improve training and education in the use of forensic analyses of evidence, Schiff’s office said.

The second Schiff provision would add two FBI agents to each of the Department of Justice’s more than two dozen Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Units around the country and require five more operational FBI agents to be designated to work on national and international investigations with Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

Balloon ban deflated by the state Senate

A bill that would have banned helium-filled Mylar balloons in California was grounded Monday, falling five votes short of passage on the floor of the state Senate.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jack Scott, needed 21 votes to pass. It garnered 16 yes votes, 14 no votes and 10 abstentions, but prospects of the bill’s passage remain alive. Scott was granted a reconsideration allowing him to ask for a vote on the bill any time before May 30, something he may or may not call for, spokeswoman Wendy Gordon said.

“We haven’t really made a decision,” she said.

“But constituents have called us and said they were supportive of the bill.”

The bill would impose a statewide ban of helium-filled Mylar balloons, which utility companies in Burbank and around the state say are responsible for numerous outages when they become enmeshed in power lines.

In February, the Burbank City Council asked Scott to draft legislation that would ban the balloons, which officials said are responsible for causing eight outages in Burbank last year.


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