Seismic Commission Funds in Jeopardy with Governor's Veto

By Charles Cooper

Assemblymember Carol Liu this week expressed dismay over the governor's veto of her bill extending the funding for the California Seismic Safety Commission through 2013.

Most of the commission's $1.1 million annual budget is funded through an account generated by a surcharge on commercial and residential insurance policies.

Two La Cañada residents, Dr. Lucy Jones and former Los Angeles fire chief Don Manning, are commission members, as is La Crescenta resident Andrew Adelman.

"The objection seems to be to the funding source for the commission, rather than the commission itself," Liu said.

The governor's veto message said many of the efforts of the commission duplicate work by the California Building Standards Commission and the Division of the State Architect.

The governor's California Performance Review program, which targeted many agencies and boards for elimination, called for an end to the seismic commission, which dates back to 1975.

The governor said, "I have directed the State and Consumer Services Agency to work with the author, the commission, Office of Emergency Services 1/4 and other stakeholders to explore further opportunities for seismic safety and increased coordination among the various agencies involved with seismic issues."

The Liu bill, AB 1374, originally eliminated the sunset clause entirely, but the six-year extension was put in to draw support. It passed the Assembly 51-26 and the Senate 21-10.

Dr. Jones, one of the most respected seismic authorities in the state, disputed the idea that the commission's work duplicates that of other departments.

"We are an independent watchdog, dealing with the legislature directly," she said. "All the other departments work through the governor."

Jones said in the year and a half until the funding sunsets, she hopes a solution to the impasse can be found.

Along with other groups and associations, the commission is involved with planning activities to mark the centennial of the major event in California's seismic history, the April 1906 "big one" on the San Andreas Fault that devastated San Francisco.

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