SD lawmakers push border, labeling, museum bills - Brian W. Jones

SD lawmakers push border, labeling, museum bills

San Diego County lawmakers are nursing through legislation to ease traffic jams at border crossings, enlist Snoopy to raise money for museums and redefine “Made in America” labeling...


hose bills are now at the halfway mark of the legislative session after surviving last week’s frantic push to meet a do-or-die deadline that resulted in dozens of other measures being sent to the shelf.

Other local bills advancing seek to require safety tests for long gun buyers, improve school security, give the Coastal Commission more authority to impose fines and help veterans.

Border-crossing license

Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, is not leaving much to chance even though the Senate unanimously passed his legislation creating a new class of secured driver’s license that he says will help quicken the wait at the border with Mexico.

Hueso went undercover of sorts on Sunday, taking three fellow Democrats in his personal car to breakfast in Tijuana, carrying no special identification. On the return, the four idled in line along with hundreds of others for 2 1/2 hours to cross back into California at the San Ysidro checkpoint.

“We got to the border at 8 o’clock and we crossed through at 10:30,” Hueso said, recalling the clock ticking while in the regular lane.

“We were normal everyday tourists. We weren’t legislators,” he said.

Hueso said he wants to build support for his Senate Bill 397, which would authorize what’s called an “enhanced driver’s license.”

These special licenses would be embedded with technology that allows border agents to verify identification with a reader from some distances, thereby moving cars through more quickly.

The measure is supported by a number of business interests on both sides of the border who feel the long waits are stifling trade and tourism, hurting the economies of both Mexico and California. The average wait is 70 minutes and can stretch as long as three hours during peak times, supporters say.

License applicants would have to be eligible for a U.S. passport, undergo more thorough background checks and pay more.

If passed, California would become the first state bordering Mexico to have such a license.

The participating Democrats were Senator Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, Assemblymen Luis Alejo of Watsonville and Roger Hernandez of West Covina.

Snoopy plates

Snoopy may prefer a Sopwith Camel plane, but a dancing likeness of the world’s most famous beagle may soon be on car license plates as part of a drive to raise money for California museums.

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is carrying legislation that would clear the way for the proceeds from sales of the special license plates to be managed by the California Cultural and Historical Endowment.

“I really want to say thank you to Snoopy for helping me get my bill out. He is probably the best advocate for this bill,” Atkins said in an interview.

The California Association of Museums has already received pledges from about 8,000 motorists asking for the license plate, which costs $50 plus another $48 to have it personalized.

DMV requires at least 7,500 prepaid requests before starting to process new specialty plates, but cannot act until the legislation is signed into law.

“The popularity of Snoopy is really going to help keep the endowment alive,” said Atkins.

The endowment is the California Cultural and Historical Endowment which awards grants to museums and other culturally significant sites in need of restoration and preservation.

The San Diego Natural History Museum received a nearly $3 million grant for renovations from 2005 to 2007, according information provided by Atkins’ office.

Overall, the endowment has awarded 170 grants totaling $122 million since 2002. The money comes from bond revenues. But that source is running dry, Atkins said.

The Snoopy specialty plate would initially cost $50.

Supporters estimate that given time about 33,000 plates will be sold, raising $2.4 million.

Snoopy is a starring character in the popular Peanuts comic strip. Jean Schulz, widow of cartoonist Charles Schulz, has given permission for Snoopy’s likeness to be used at no cost, Atkins said.

Assembly Bill 482 is pending in the Senate.

Made in USA

The Assembly narrowly approved a measure that would conform California product labeling laws with less-stringent federals standards adopted by all the other states.

Assemblyman Brian Jones, a Santee Republican carrying the bill, said the stricter state standards discourages manufacturing here.

California law requires most of the product to be made “entirely or substantially” in the U.S. before qualifying for the label. The rest of the states are aligned with a looser federal definition.

“If a product is made in America, it should be made in America,” said Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino,” who voted no.

Some labor and consumer interests fear that opening a loophole for makers to do some production elsewhere and still carry a coveted ”Made in the USA” label would deceive consumers and cost American jobs.

Jones countered that California companies are at a competitive disadvantage because some materials are difficult to locate in the U.S. or are too costly.

Assembly Bill 890 is pending in the Senate.

Other key measures

• Coastal Commission: The Assembly approved AB 976 carried by Atkins that would permit the Coastal Commission to penalize those who violate Coastal Act protections. Currently, the commission has to go to court to seek penalties.

• Classroom door locks: The Senate approved SB 316 carried by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, that requires all new classrooms constructed after Jan. 1, 2016 to have doors that can be locked from the inside. The bill was introduced in the wake of the mass killings of elementary school students and teachers in Newtown, Conn.

• Gun control: The Senate passed Block’s SB 683 that would require buyers of shotguns, rifles and other long guns to pass a written safety test similar to one now required as part of a handgun purchase.

• Veterans: The Assembly approved AB 186 carried by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, that would allow spouses of service members to qualify for a 12-month temporary professional license as long as they have a similar valid license from another state.

• Veterans: The Assembly approved AB 13 carried by Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, that would allow service members who have just left the military to pay in-state tuition even if he or she is not a resident of California.