Saturday, September 7, 2013


Measure to Reallocate Hollywood Park Dates Goes to Governor

(Sacramento) A bill by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins to allow the California Horse Racing Board to reallocate racing dates currently held by Hollywood Park Race Track, which is closing at the end of its 2013 winter season, has been passed by the State Legislature and sent to the Governor.  The bill permits these dates to be distributed to the remaining Southern California tracks, most notably Santa Anita and Del Mar Racetracks. AB 1074 also renews for one year the statewide marketing organization administered by the horseracing industry.

“Horseracing fans from all over Southern California have travelled to Del Mar since before Bing Crosby sang about where the surf meets the turf,” says Atkins.  “My bill would position Del Mar to compete for the coveted Breeder’s Cup.  This would be exciting for horseracing fans and a tremendous boon to our local economy.”

The Breeder’s Cup is a two-day event that features one of racing’s largest purses and is estimated to bring as much as $60 million into the local economy of the racetrack that hosts it.

Hollywood Park was opened for racing in 1938.  The historic track has hosted some of racing’s most legendary horses, including Sea Biscuit, Affirmed and, more recently, Cigar.  However, after years as one of the premier racetracks in the United States, Hollywood Park will close this year to make way for a new retail/residential development.

Del Mar Racetrack is located at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, in the northern San Diego County city of Del Mar.  It was founded in 1937 by a partnership among a number of famous Hollywood celebrities, including Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, Gary Cooper, Joe E. Brown, and Oliver Hardy.

The marketing association renewed by this bill has been renewed every legislative session since it was established in 1998 by SB 27.  That bill delineated both how the funds for the association were to be collected and how they could be disbursed.

AB 1074 is supported by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, and Thoroughbred Owners of California.

Governor Brown has until October 13 to sign or veto the measure.


(Sacramento) The California Senate today passed legislation by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins that enables the California Coastal Commission to levy penalties against those who disregard orders to stop violating the California Coastal Act. AB 976 will bring Coastal Commission authority in line with most other state agencies tasked with enforcing environmental laws.

“The voters of California made public access to our beaches and protection of our coastline a priority through their vote in 1972,” says Atkins.  “My bill will ensure that the agency tasked with enforcing the Coastal Act has the tools to perform its mission, while avoiding costly litigation and ensuring the fair treatment of all.  I am grateful to my colleagues for their support of our coast.”

“As a former Coastal Commissioner, I can testify that the Commission urgently needs the penalty authority provided by this measure to deter Coastal Act violations and help protect coastal access for all Californians,” said Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), principal co-author of AB 976.  “I urge the Assembly to pass this critical measure, and I hope that the Governor will sign it.”

Violations of the Coastal Act can include blocking public access to beaches, damaging environmentally sensitive habitats, or unauthorized development. Currently, the Commission can issue cease and desist orders to violators, but must pursue litigation through the California Attorney General’s office in order to enforce those orders if they are ignored, a costly and time-consuming process.  The Coastal Commission currently has over 1800 open enforcement cases and new violations are reported to them more quickly than they can close existing ones. AB 976 will allow the Coastal Commission to fine violators in much the same way as other environmental agencies, such as the State Water Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  AB 976 will also ensure opportunities to challenge fines and provides rigorous due process protections.

The California Coastal Commission was created by California voters in 1972, through their approval of Proposition 20, and later made permanent by the California Coastal Act of 1976.   The Coastal Act protects beaches, wetlands, water quality, and wildlife in an area of land and water larger than the State of Rhode Island.

AB 976 now returns briefly to the Assembly before going to the Governor.


(Sacramento)  Assembly Bill 1121, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, was passed by the California State Legislature and sent to the Governor today.  The bill provides transgender people seeking legal name changes to reflect their gender identity with a streamlined and inexpensive process that protects their privacy. Current law requires a transgender person to obtain a court order and to publish the name change application in the newspaper. This process can be expensive and also publicly exposes the person to potential discrimination, harassment or even violence because of being transgender.

AB 1121 creates a new administrative option for transgender people seeking to amend the gender marker on a California birth certificate through the State Registrar.  It also deletes the costly newspaper publication requirement.

“Transgender people are entitled to have their official documents and their legal name reflect their true identity without a burdensome and expensive process that endangers their personal safety,” says Atkins. “I am hopeful that the Governor will support this simple bill that will greatly enhance the lives of transgender Californians.”

Transgender people’s understanding of themselves as male or female is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.  Medical science recognizes this condition as Gender Dysphoria and prescribes specific treatments to help the transgender person transition physically, so their bodies match their gender identity.  This often includes surgery, medication, and mental health support. Being transgender is not a choice.  A person’s gender identity is set at an early age and cannot be changed at will.

The transition to living in accord with one’s gender identity also involves a legal process because birth certificates and a person’s name usually reflect the sex they were assigned at birth. In California, a person seeking a court-ordered name change has to publish a notice in a newspaper for four weeks.  They are also required to have a public hearing before a judge, the record of which is also public.  The process is lengthy and can be expensive.

Forty-four percent of transgender people experience discrimination, harassment and assault.  A public name change process heightens the likelihood of these occurring.  AB 1121 allows the transgender person to avoid the public notice and court process by applying directly to the state Office of Vital Records for a name change.

AB 1121 is sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.  The Governor has until October 13 to sign or veto the measure.


(San Diego)  The California State Legislature has sent to the Governor AB 425, a bill by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins to require the State of California to address water pollution caused by copper-based anti-fouling hull paint.  Under this bill, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is directed to complete by February 1, 2014 its work to evaluate and make recommendations regarding whether the paint should be subject to increased state oversight and how best to mitigate its potentially harmful effects.

“The qualities that make copper-based paint effective in keeping boat hulls free from damaging organisms like barnacles and algae also makes it a threat to aquatic animal and plant life,” says Atkins.  “We need to complete the scientific analysis upon which we can base sound and balanced environmental policy that protects our marine ecosystem without being overly burdensome.”

Copper based hull paint is legal in California as long as it is registered as a pesticide; however, the level of pollution in some bodies of water exceeds that allowable under the federal Clean Water Act and state water quality regulations.  This, in turn, endangers plant and animal life, particularly in areas with limited water circulation and a high concentration of moorings for personal recreational boats, which can remain stationary for long periods.  For example, Shelter Island Yacht Basin in San Diego Bay has been ordered to reduce its copper pollution by 76% by the year 2022.

DPR has been conducting ongoing research and analysis of the issue for a number of years without issuing recommendations.  AB 425 is intended to jump start this process and require DPR to complete its work so that informed policy decisions can be made.

Governor Brown has until October 13 to sign or veto the measure.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


(Sacramento)  AB 1229, a bill by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins that will ensure that local governments can require affordable housing set-asides in new developments, if they choose, was passed by the California State Senate today, sending the bill to Governor Brown.  The bill addresses uncertainty and confusion created by a 2009 appellate court ruling that the state’s rent control law, the Costa-Hawkins Act, prohibits such programs for rental housing.

“Inclusionary zoning is a critical tool that has provided affordable homes to over 80,000 Californians.  My bill gives local governments a green light to continue using this tool without fear of conflicting with state law,” says Atkins.  “Affordable housing is critical to both communities and families because it enables workers to live near where they work, even in high cost parts of our state.”

Inclusionary zoning is a land use practice through which local governments promote affordable housing.  These policies have been in use for over 40 years, but were challenged in the case of Palmer/Sixth Street Properties L.P. v. City of Los Angeles.  In Palmer, the court held that the provision of Costa-Hawkins which gives developers, and not government, the right to establish initial rental rates applies to privately financed rental housing projects and voids many inclusionary housing policies.  At least 140 California cities and counties have some form of inclusionary housing policy.  Many of these include a provision allowing the developer to pay a fee to the local government in lieu of actually offering low cost housing.

AB 1229 is sponsored by groups seeking to maximize housing options for low income people, including the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California and the San Diego Housing Federation.

Governor Brown has until October 13 to sign or veto the measure.