Lawmakers OK Smog Check II, others in rush of session’s last week

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Associated Press

SACRAMENTO (AP) — The state Senate approved a bill Tuesday to require Bay Area drivers to participate in the more costly Smog Check II program, which supporters said would cut pollution that migrates to the Central Valley.

The bill was among dozens the Legislature tackled Tuesday, including a measure expanding state wiretap laws to include suspected terrorists and a bill to require that 20 percent of the state’s energy needs be met with renewable energy such as solar and wind.

The Assembly approved a bill that would allow workers to take up to six weeks of paid leave to care for an ill family member or a new child.

The Assembly and the Senate each have hundreds of bills on which to vote before the legislative session ends Saturday.

Written by Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, the Smog Check II bill aims to crack down on millions of Bay Area motorists blamed for the wind-blown smog that travels to the Central Valley.

The more costly tests could curb Central Valley air pollution by up to 10 percent, cutting down on Bay Area smog that blows through the Carquinez Straits and Altamont Pass, supporters said.

During the brief time it complied with federal air quality standards, the Bay Area received an exemption from the tougher smog test.

The bill will give both regions “an opportunity to address our mutual air challenges,” said Sen. Dick Monteith, R-Modesto. Monteith and Cardoza are facing each other in the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres.

Critics argued it will cost Bay Area business owners more for new equipment and cost drivers there millions of dollars for the more expensive test. The newer test costs about $10 extra and puts some cars on a treadmill to check for nitrogen dioxide, a key element of ozone formation.

The bill also exempts more cars statewide from the tougher smog test. Presently, cars less than four years old are exempt. The new law extends that exemption to cars less than six years old.

The Senate voted 26-3 to approve the bill, sending it back to the Assembly for approval of Senate amendments.

A bill to expand the use of wiretaps to include possible terrorism acts also passed the Senate Tuesday. By a 26-1 vote, the Senate sent the bill by Assemblyman Carl Washington, D-Paramount, back to the Assembly. If approved there, it will go to Gov. Gray Davis.

Under current law, wiretaps can be applied to kidnapping, murder and bombing suspects. Washington’s bill would extend the use to include those suspected of building weapons of mass destruction and restrictive biological agents.

The Assembly approved a bill requiring that 20 percent of the state’s energy be from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal. The bill, by Sen. Byron Sher, D-Stanford, gives utilities until 2017 to meet the requirement.

Most of the state’s energy supply comes from natural gas, and supporters of Sher’s bill say spreading the state’s energy supply among other sources will increase reliability and price stability.

The Assembly voted 49-13 to send the bill back to the Senate for concurrence in Assembly amendments.

Also, the Assembly passed a bill requiring business executives to reveal corporate fraud or face possible fines of up to $100,000.

The measure would fill some holes left in federal anti-fraud legislation passed in response to the collapse of Enron Corp. and related business scandals, supporters said.

But opponents said the bill by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Commerce, could create unfair pitfalls for corporate executives and discourage businesses from locating in California.

The bill would authorize fines of up to $100,000 for corporate officers and directors and members of limited liability companies who fail to notify the attorney general within 15 days when they know about improper business activities that would harm investors.

The company itself could be fined up to $1 million, and company managers responsible for financial transactions could be fined up to $50,000 for failing to make the required disclosures.

Also, the bill requires the attorney general to set up a telephone hot line that employees could use to report possible violations of state or federal business laws or regulations or violations of fiduciary responsibility by corporations or limited liability companies.

The 43-20 vote returned the bill to the Senate for a vote on Assembly amendments. Approval there would send the bill to the governor.


On the Net: Read the bills, AB2637, AB74, SB1078 and SB783 at

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