Wed12172014

News

Sen. Joe Simitian sponsors laws including new cell-phone curbs

Thank state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) for two new laws limiting cell-phone use while driving that go into effect July 1.

None of the other new state laws that went into effect this month have received as far-reaching attention from residents as the cell-phone bans.

"I would make the case that some of my bills get more attention than they should just because they are deemed newsworthy," Simitian said.

He pointed to Senate Bill 966 as a lesser-known but significant pilot program meant to prevent discarded prescription drugs from entering the water supply.

SB 966, first proposed through Simitian"s "There Oughta Be a Law" contest — which invites constituents to submit ideas for legislation — was sparked by suggestions from a senior citizen in Mountain View and a high school senior in Santa Cruz.

Other Simitian-sponsored legislation that took effect this month includes a ban on employee-mandated identification implants inspired in part by an Ohio company that required employees to undergo implantation with an under-the-skin ID chip, a study of charter school costs and an expansion of school districts" construction authority.

Statewide, lawmakers passed 964 bills, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed 750 into law last year, including a 50-cent raise in the minimum wage, which now rests at $8 per hour, and a ban on smoking when children are in the car.

Because the state Senate is in the middle of a two-year legislative session, Simitian is trying to hustle more bills through before the Jan. 31 deadline.

"It"s a somewhat hectic time," he said.

He noted that he is pushing SB 411, a bill requiring California"s utilities to draw 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Simitian, whose district includes Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, introduced 33 bills to the Legislature in 2007. Seven of his bills were signed into law last year, the most notorious being the cell-phone restrictions going into effect July 1. Adults must use hands-free devices to call from the car, while teens are prohibited from using any mobile device while driving, including text-messaging.

The hands-free cell-phone bill targeting adults, first introduced six years ago, has not been updated to account for the proliferation of text-messaging. It regulated only audio phone calls when it was passed in 2006.

"It was a long haul to get here. Let"s give these new laws a year or two to see how they work, then we can revisit them," he said.

Because the bill was so long in the making, he said, "I didn"t want to risk the bill by opening up a new topic of debate."

Both the adult and teen prohibitions are secondary offenses, meaning they take effect only if the driver is pulled over for another violation. Perpetrators will face a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.

Contact Eliza Ridgeway at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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