Column: Newsom made the right decisions on fishing, 'ghost guns' and 3 other simple bills
Not all Sacramento legislation is complicated, wonky and understandable only by special interests. Some is simple and sensible. Other bills are simple and nutty.
Gov. Gavin Newsom acted on all three types after the Democrat-dominated Legislature sent him 836 measures — mostly complicated and wonky — before adjourning for the year last month.
Newsom finished signing 770 bills and vetoing 66 last Saturday. Forget the complicated measures for now. Here are five simple bills, both sensible and nutty. None are high priority in the grand scheme of life. But they will directly affect people — or would have if not vetoed.
This was a very low-profile bill. You probably never heard of it. The only people directly affected will be the 1 million-plus Californians who annually buy fishing licenses. But they’ll appreciate it.
It changes the duration of a fishing license from a calendar year to 365 days. Currently, if you don’t buy a $52.66 license until your family vacation begins in July, it’s good for only the remaining six months of the calendar year. Under the new law, it won’t expire for 12 months.
“You’ll get what you paid for: a year’s worth of fishing license,” says the bill’s author, Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), whose north-coast district is heavily fished by sport anglers.
After all, car registrations are good for 365 days. So are Triple-A memberships. It’s about time fishing licenses are too.
Fourteen other states have year-round fishing licenses. California would have too several years ago except for two reasons:
The state Fish and Wildlife department feared it would lose revenue. But now the department realizes it may sell even more licenses because they’re worth more.
Previous legislation was carried by Republicans. Democrats weren’t going to let them own a popular bill.
No legislator voted against this measure in a committee or on the floor.
This was a gun control bill that made so much sense that the National Rifle Assn. didn’t even oppose it. Neither did any gun lobby. No legislator — not even a Republican — voted against it.
The measure adds so-called ghost guns to the weapons that can be seized by police from someone who’s “red-flagged” by a judge. In many cases, this is a gunowner under a restraining order because of domestic violence. Or maybe he’s threatening people and talking about wanting to kill.
Ghost guns generally are homemade from parts ordered online. They’re usually unregistered and untraceable. And until this bill, they weren’t among the firearms that could be seized by police.
“If it looks like a gun and shoots like a gun, it should be treated like a gun,” says the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “We need to close this loophole. When I found out we hadn’t already, I was shocked and horrified.
“Ghost guns are turning up at crime scenes all over the country.”
A bill to decriminalize jaywalking was thankfully vetoed by Newsom.
The governor said the measure by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) risked “worsening California’s pedestrian safety.”
Look, I get not wanting to walk to the end of a long block to cross the street at a stop sign. But the answer is more stop signs and crosswalks — not harassing motorists.
A commuter driving home at night has enough hazards to worry about without a barely visible jaywalker in dark clothes suddenly emerging in the headlights. By then, it may be too late to stop. And if the car is stopped, it could be rammed from behind.
Sure, under the bill, the jaywalker couldn’t legally cross the street in traffic. But humans make mistakes. A car or truck may not be seen by a pedestrian, especially if the vehicle is speeding.
This was one of the nuttier bills.
This was another nutty bill vetoed by Newsom.
The measure by Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) would have allowed bicyclists to treat stop signs as “yield” markers. They’d decelerate but not fully stop before crossing if there was no traffic.
But this makes no more sense than the jaywalker bill. People err. They sometimes don’t see what they don’t want to see. Or they recklessly try to beat the odds.
Newsom said the measure “may be especially concerning for children, who may not know how to judge vehicle speeds or exercise the necessary caution to yield to traffic.”
Sounds like a father with four bicycle-riding kids.
This is a bill that’s relatively simple and — once you think about it — sensible. Yet no Republican voted for it.
Starting as early as 2024, you won’t be able to buy a new gas-powered leaf blower, lawn mower, small chainsaw or hand-carried generator in California.
It makes sense partly because by 2035, we won’t be allowed to buy new gasoline-burning automobiles in California. So why not start with leaf blowers and lawn mowers and go all-battery?
The bill’s author, Assemblyman Mark Berman (D-Menlo Park), says operating one of these small engines — under 25 horsepower — creates more air pollution in one hour than driving a car from Los Angeles to Denver.
A gardener pushing a gas-powered mower or blowing leaves is at twice the risk of getting cancer as the average homeowner who hires him, a Berman aide says.
California is the first state to phase out these smog creators and health hazards.
Newsom savors being first. And this is a good thing to be first in.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.