POLITICAL LANDSCAPE:

All three congressional representatives for the Burbank-Glendale area voted Tuesday to pass a bill that would provide vouchers of up to $4,500 to residents who turn in their gas hogs for significantly more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act now goes to the Senate for consideration after Reps. Adam Schiff, David Dreier and Brad Sherman joined with the two-thirds majority to pass the bill.

Dreier called the legislation “an important step toward strengthening our weakened auto industry,” particularly for fuel-efficient cars.

The provision known as “Cash for Clunkers” includes a two-tiered program in which residents who replace autos that get 18 miles per gallon or less for cars with an improved fuel efficiency of at least four miles per gallon would get a voucher for $3,500.

Car purchases that improve fuel efficiency by at least 10 miles per gallon would get vouchers worth $4,500.

The vouchers would be available to offset the purchase or lease price for any qualifying passenger automobile or truck, but limited to one per customer, including joint registered owners of a single trade-in vehicle.

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Funding to cover DNA lab, backlog processing

The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved more than $3 million in funding for area law enforcement programs, clearing the way for a floor vote on the legislation.

The bill includes $500,000 for DNA equipment to be installed at a regional crime lab to be located in Glendale, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the committee, said in a statement.

The lab will use the equipment to examine evidence from cases in Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena. Those cities currently send their DNA evidence to a Los Angeles County crime lab, which can take up to nine months to analyze the materials.

“DNA matching technology is one of the greatest advancements in forensic science since the fingerprint,” Schiff said.

“This funding will go directly toward tracking down murderers and rapists and ensuring they are taken off the street before they can strike again.”

The bill also includes $1 million to help the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department process its backlog of more than 4,700 unexamined rape evidence kits.

Another $500,000 will be allocated for a law enforcement communication system operated by the cities of Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena, if the legislation is passed.

The Interagency Communications Interoperability System allows local law enforcement, governments and first responders to easily communicate with each other during emergencies.

“In the event of a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, it is imperative that law enforcement and first responders have the ability to communicate with each other to coordinate an efficient and effective response,” Schiff said.

“These communication systems can help save lives by enabling the brave men and women protecting our communities to do their jobs better.”

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Antonovich blasts overtime findings

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich on Tuesday slammed the county Probation Department over an audit that found employees had flouted policies to rack up millions in overtime pay.

Auditors found that over the last five years, probation staff members routinely exceeded a weekly 24-hour limit on overtime at an annual cost to the county of $9.8 million.

Some of the employees reportedly sought out the overtime hours, filled in for positions they weren't qualified to handle and competed with one another over how much overtime pay they could rack up, according to the audit.

Reacting to the report, Antonovich said employees were “scamming the system” and called on violators to be disciplined.

County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposal from Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky directing county executives to report back in two months on what went wrong, who was disciplined and preventive measures.

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County to cut additional 2% from the budget

Faced with falling tax revenues and state funding cuts, Los Angeles County officials announced this week that they would cut an additional 2% from the county budget.

The cuts would be in addition to the 5% to 13% spending reductions called for across all county departments as part of a $22.8-million budget. The reductions were needed because revenues are expected to drop an additional $100 million by the time the county Board of Supervisors take up the draft budget later this month.

The 2% cut is only expected to cover about half of the projected shortfall.

Under the latest proposals from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger office, the county could lose nearly $1.5 billion and be forced to cut thousands of workers from its payroll.

And on Wednesday, state Controller John Chiang announced that revenue in May was $827 million below the latest projections cited in Schwarzenegger's latest budget revision.

Without immediate solutions from Sacramento, Chiang warned that the state was “less than 50 days away from a meltdown of state government.”

The latest figures put California on track to run $2.78 billion into the red on July 31, according to Chiang's latest round of projections.

The state started the fiscal year, July 2008, with a $1.48-billion cash deficit, but that grew to $19.8 billion as of May 31, according to the state controller's office.

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Reps to attend picnic, talk politics in park

State Sen. Carol Liu, Assemblyman Paul Krekorian and Councilman David Gordon are scheduled to attend a picnic hosted by the Burbank Democratic Club Saturday at McCambridge Park.

The Burbank Animal Shelter will also hold a pet adoption as part of the picnic event, which is open to the public. Organizers are asking for donations to the shelter, such as canned or dry pet food, cat litter, blankets and pet toys.

Other officials, including Reps. Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman, have also been invited to attend as residents talk politics over refreshments.

The picnic will take place in Area 4 of the park, along San Fernando Road, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.


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