Thursday, September 29, 2016

California State Senator Robert M. Hertzberg re-vamps California elections and finance reporting

Former Speaker of the California State Assembly, and now California State Senator representing the San Fernando Valley in Sacramento, Robert Hertzberg, along with Senator Ben Allen of Santa Monica, has re-configured voting and campaign finance reporting by authoring two bills that were today signed into law by Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown.

As Senator Hertzberg’s press secretary, Andrew LaMar, put it in a press release today:

“Gov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to modernize California’s online database of campaign and lobbying information.

SB 1349 directs the state to overhaul the Secretary of State’s antiquated Cal-Access system for filing and accessing campaign finance and lobbying data. It establishes important guidelines for the project, including creating a system that is data driven, rather than form based, and adhering to prevailing standards for search and open data.

“The bill is supported by a broad coalition that includes California Common Cause, the California Business Roundtable, the League of Women Voters of California, the California Labor Federation and Secretary of State Alex Padilla.”

In a separate press release, he announced:

“A measure authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) and Senator Robert Hertzberg (D – Van Nuys) to transform the way elections are conducted was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown today.  SB 450 authorizes counties to replace neighborhood polling places with conveniently located vote centers and allow voting in the 10 days preceding and election; it also requires every voter to be mailed a vote-by-mail ballot.

“‘Our current system of limiting voters to casting their ballot at a single location on a single day has failed, as our voter turnout rates have continued to decline toward record lows.  People lead increasingly complicated lives; we should provide them with maximum flexibility when it comes to voting.  Under this new law, people will be able to choose the time and place to vote that is most convenient for their lifestyle and their schedule. This is part of an effort to modernize our voting system to meet contemporary needs,’ said Senator Allen.

“‘I am glad the governor has signed SB 450 because it is time for us to modernize the voting process and provide Californians the same convenience and flexibility in casting a ballot as they have in so many other areas of their lives,’ Hertzberg said. ‘You can stream a movie over the internet or deposit a check with your phone at any time, but without this bill, many people still have to rearrange their busy schedules to get to a polling place on a single day and that has hurt turnout.’

“Under SB 450, voters will be able to vote in person at vote centers located at public spots throughout their county for the 10 days prior to an election, including two weekends.  Also, every voter will receive a vote by mail ballot that can be returned by mail, or dropped off at any vote center.”

Californians still can’t electronically sign initiative, referendum, recall, or in-lieu petitions online, but these two reforms from the office of the former Assembly Speaker certainly move the state forward into the world of 21st century electoral and financial reporting technology and procedures. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bureau of Land Management illustrates and explains the approval process for renewable solar energy generation in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan area

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today provided Etopia News with a link to a flow chart and an explanation of how projects will be approved under the terms of the recently-announced Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.  According to the agency:

“Here's a flow chart that sums up how the BLM considers applications for solar development:

“The first step is for a potential developer to file an application for the area they'd like to develop. Then the BLM will meet with the applicant, conduct surveys and inventories to understand resources that could be impacted, and conduct environmental review to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act [(NEPA)]. This contains many steps, including scoping, drafts, public input periods and final review periods.

“Concurrently with the NEPA process, we consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as required by the Endangered Species Act and undertake cultural resources and tribal consultation under the National Historic Preservation Act.

“After these steps, we'll issue a decision on the project and, if approved, issue a right-of-way to the developer with associated mitigation requirements.

“The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan doesn't eliminate any of these steps, but it does shorten them. For example:

- the plan describes all survey requirements so applicants know what will be required
- the environmental review can take advantage of all the environmental analysis already done through the DRECP, potentially shortening that process.

- the DRECP allows for more predictable and shorter consultations under the Endangered Species Act and National Historic Preservation Act.

- the DRECP defines required mitigation, so applicants know ahead of time what will be required.”