SACRAMENTO — Next Friday, the current legislative session comes to a close, and lawmakers are busy getting a flurry of bills passed and on their way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk where they will either be approved or perish.
State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica) is right in the thick of it.
This year alone, Pavley landed eight bills on Brown’s desk, another that has already been signed into law and six more that she hopes will make it out of the halls of the Legislature to await the governor’s signature.
Several of those bills target specific threats against vulnerable populations such as infants, the elderly and even businesses who feel put upon by unclear regulatory processes.
One bill has particular importance to the senator, who has been working on it in one form or another for the past three years.
Assembly Bill 1319 would ban a chemical called Bisphenol-A from baby bottles and sippy cups for use by infants and toddlers. BPA leaches out of containers and into food and has been linked to a host of health problems, including early puberty, breast and prostate cancer, infertility, obesity and neurological and behavioral changes, including autism and hyperactivity, supporters of the bill said.
Although Pavley has been instrumental in forming the bill, it actually carries the name of Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-53rd District).
The move was strategic, Pavley said in an interview Friday.
“I carried it for two years, and I thought it was politically smarter to start this in the Assembly because the chair of the senate Health Committee (Ed Hernandez) was not going to be supporting the legislation,” Pavley said. “I decided not to take the gamble that it might not pass.”
Instead, Pavley asked Butler to take on the challenge and get it through the Assembly, where it gained momentum and eventually moved on to the State Senate.
“She had to reduce the scope of it, but having six months of keeping the bill alive and getting stronger support helped a lot with getting the passage,” Pavley said.
The bill took three years to get through because of stiff resistance from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which argued that regulatory agencies around the world approve of the use of BPA in products that come in contact with food.
“We believe it is important to allow the federal government’s regulatory authorities to make science-based decisions, and not to create patchwork state and local restrictions when it comes to products,” wrote Steve Hentges, the senior director of the ACC, in an e-mail. “Decisions regarding the safety of food-contact materials should be based on the best available data and solid scientific evaluation.”
Protecting the elderly
Pavley also worked to protect the elderly from fraud by calling for more regulations around signature stamps issued by banks.
Banks make the signature stamps for elderly or disabled adults who can’t make it to a physical bank branch. The bill, Senate Bill 586, would require a bank employee to witness and sign all requests for new signature stamps.
It also doubles the fines for those caught violating elder abuse laws.
A constituent from Woodland Hills brought the issue forward after her mother was the victim of fraud. The woman’s in-home-care worker stole three-quarters of a million dollars, Pavley said.
“It is not only for the growing aging population, but also for the vulnerability of developmentally-disabled adults,” Pavley said.
In addition to children and the elderly, Pavley worked with other legislators to help out a less-sympathetic group: Business people.
Pavley joined Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) in moving forward legislation that requires state agencies to review major regulations that are worth over $50 million for their effects on investment, innovation, creation of new businesses and impact on jobs, amongst other factors.
“Along with looking at compliance costs, it’s also vital to consider economic benefits,” Pavley said. “Regulations often drive innovation.”
The bill also increases transparency by letting the public and other stakeholders participate in the regulatory process.