Political Landscape: Brown sifting through last-minute bills

Gov. Jerry Brown is currently going through a massive number of bills that were approved by the Legislature at the last minute before lawmakers went into recess until January.

One bill awaiting Brown’s signature would require the California Energy Commission to explore the possibility of generating green electricity from passing cars, trucks and trains.

The legislation, written by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake), centers on what’s called piezoelectric technology. It involves sensors placed under a roadway and the vibrations produced by vehicles that are converted into electricity.

Gatto said this technology is already being used in other countries.

A Japanese railway company installed sensors under the floor in its Tokyo train station and uses the energy generated by pedestrians to power all of the displays in the station, he said. There are also sensors under some highways in Israel.

“Thirty years ago, who would have believed that black silicon panels left in the desert could generate solar power,” Gatto said in a written statement. “And just 10 years ago, people were incredulous when you described a Bluetooth device. This technology is very real, and it merits study.”

The measure passed the Senate with a 27-9 vote and then passed the Assembly with amendments, 56-21.

A controversial piece of legislation making it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in public places also is on Brown’s desk.

The bill, written by Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), squeaked by the Senate with a 21-18 vote. It later passed the Assembly with a few changes with a 48-30 vote.

California is one of many states that allows so-called “open carry,” which gives gun owners the right to display weapons, though the guns must be unloaded, Portantino said.

Carrying loaded firearms in public is illegal in the state.

The open-carry practice came to a head last year when gun enthusiasts were entering coffee shops and public beaches with unloaded firearms strapped to their hips.

Portantino said the law would shield law enforcement personnel who come upon tense situations where they don’t know if a gun is loaded or not.

The California film tax incentive program would be extended by only one year in a bill that’s awaiting Brown’s consideration.

Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, who wrote the bill, had hoped to get a five-year extension for the program, which has resulted in billions of dollars of economic activity.

But once on the Senate floor, lawmakers wanted to reduce the extension to one year with what’s called a “budget trigger,” where the program would be automatically cut if budget estimates do not come in as projected.

“We were able to negotiate it to one year without a budget trigger,” said Ben Golombek, deputy chief of staff for Fuentes.

Senators approved the modified extension with a 34-2 vote. The measure returned to the Assembly, where it was approved 74-1.

Enacted in 2009, the film tax credit is designed to increase local production spending and generate state tax revenues.

The program, which is currently set to expire in 2014, provides $100 million in tax credits annually for production companies. In general, projects receive a 20% tax credit.

Brown has until Oct. 9 to sign the bills, veto them or ignore them. If he does the latter, the legislation becomes law without a signature.

State Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) held an open house Wednesday at her new office in Glendale, which she said is larger and more accessible to the public than her former digs.

Located at 501 N. Central Ave., Liu said her new office has more available parking and is on the first floor, compared to her previous office, also in Glendale, which was on the third floor.

“And it’s so open,” she said as she gestured around a conference room filled with guests and treats for the event. There was even an old-time popcorn machine on display.

The senator prefers to have an office in Glendale because it’s in the center of her district, said Talin Mangioglu, Liu’s district director.

Liu has two projects she’s getting ready to launch.

The Pathways project is designed to shine a spotlight on programs and opportunities available to the working poor, homeless and veterans. The Green 21 program brings together leaders in business, cities, nonprofits and education to strengthen regional green and sustainable energy efforts.

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