Hundreds of bills made it to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk in August and September this year. And, while they didn’t all get his stamp of approval, four of the bills authored and sponsored by State Senator Henry Stern, Malibu’s representative in Sacramento, did.
A bill with a big impact on Malibu, and which local nonprofit Poison Free Malibu advocated for years, severely restricts the use of some rat poisons beginning Jan. 1. Because the poisons—anticoagulant rodenticides—don’t kill the rats and mice right away, the rodents become easy prey for mountain lions, bobcats, owls, hawks and other predators, causing them to also die excruciating deaths.
“California’s wildlife is hurtling down the path of extinction, especially the lions of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the reckless use of rat poison is a major driver,” Stern said in a statement provided by his office.
The bill does not go quite as far as some advocates would have liked, but they say it is a start.
“It puts a temporary ban on the use of the four most widely used deadly rodent poisons by the commercial pest control service companies while permanent restrictions are formulated [by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation],” Poison Free Malibu described.
The use of rat poison by restaurants, shopping centers and homeowners has been well documented throughout the city.
The poison ban was also supported by dozens of other environmental and animal rights organizations including Poison Free Agoura; Californians for Pesticide Reform; Conejo Valley Audubon Society; Friends of LA River; and the cities of Agoura Hills, Los Angeles, Malibu, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks.
Three other Stern measures, which also take effect in January, will help protect people during fires and other emergencies.
AB 3074 (Friedman-Stern) requires an ember-resistant zone within five feet of structures located in “very high fire hazard severity zones,” which includes all of Malibu.
SB 596 (Stern) requires county social services agencies to let older and/or disabled people applying for certain benefits know they may be eligible for a local utility’s medical baseline program—which includes receiving some power at a lower rate and receiving early warnings about planned power outages and power safety power shutoff (intentional blackout) events.
AB 2213 (Limón-Stern) allows county social services agencies to give phone numbers and email addresses of elderly and/or disabled residents to emergency service agencies so they can contact and, if necessary, help evacuate them during a power shut-off, fire or other emergency. Previously, only home addresses could be given to emergency workers.
“Preparing for ‘wildfire season’ has become a process of continual improvement, given wildfire season is effectively now 12 months long,” Stern—chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee—wrote. Malibu’s senator is also a member of the Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee.
A summary of some of the other bills signed into law by the governor is as follows:
• First responders may not photograph human remains outside of an official investigation. The legislation was inspired after LASD officers from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station took graphic photos of the late basketball star Kobe Bryant following a fatal helicopter crash in January.
• Companies with at least five employees now have to guarantee workers their jobs back after taking leave to care for a new baby or sick family member. The guarantee already exists for employees of larger companies, and is now being extended to small companies. Most employees pay into California’s paid family leave program through a one percent paycheck deduction.
• Renters financially impacted by COVID-19, in order to avoid being evicted in February, would have to pay 25 percent of the rent they owe from September through January. Landlords could then collect any unpaid rent in small claims court beginning March 2021.
• Sale of all flavored tobacco products is banned as of January 2021, in order to reduce the appeal of tobacco products to children and teens.
• Employers must notify employees of potential COVID-19 exposures in the workplace and alert the local health department of outbreaks (three or more positive cases within 14 days) beginning Jan. 1, 2021. Cal/OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) will enforce the rules and has the authority to shut down any worksite deemed an “imminent hazard” due to COVID risk.
• California will contract with drug manufacturers to produce its own label of low-cost generic drugs for residents, with priority given to insulin and medications for other chronic and high-cost conditions. The idea is to increase competition in the generics market and reduce drug prices.
• Colleges whose students get state aid (including Pepperdine) must clarify how they intend to address campus sexual assault allegations, in addition to training staff and publishing the campus personnel responsible for investigating complaints. The law takes effect in 2022.