There oughta be a law

The election’s over, and now the work begins (should begin!). A few years ago, Joe Simitian, then a California State senator, started ‘There oughta be a law,’ a contest to encourage California citizens to propose legislation to improve quality of life in California. Current State Senator Jerry Hill now sponsors the program. Senator Hill writes:

The contest is open to all constituents of the 13th Senate District and allows residents to submit their ideas for improving the quality of life in our community and/or the state of California. Ideas can vary from local community improvements to statewide reforms. Applicants can create new laws or repeal / revise laws already on the books. I will select a winner in February and work toward implementing the reform during the legislative session. Applications can be submitted online and are due by January 15, 2016.

Do you have an idea for a law?   The TPA steering committee would love to work with you on a proposal. Please share your idea by sending a message to transitionpaloalto@gmail.com. We’ll get in touch with you to follow up. We’ll also be announcing the contest at TPA events in November and December.

To learn more about the contest, go to http://sd13.senate.ca.gov/submit-bill-idea. To help inspire you, the page includes a description past contest winners.

Submitted proposals:

  • Darshana Maya Greenfield:
    • So much of U.S. legislation / propositions cover more than one thing.  Usually one part is a good idea, and another part is not so useful.  Or the idea is good, but the implementation is not.I think our laws should (by law!) just cover one thing, so that people / legislators can vote for what is good, and not have a bunch of bad stuff come along with it.
  • Peter Ruddock:
    • Imbalance of jobs and housing is the leading cause of traffic, which releases Greenhouse gases and other pollution, and wastes vast amounts of commuters’ time, among other things.  Palo Alto has approximately 60,000 residents and approximately 200,000 jobs, and so is the center of predictable traffic jams every weekday.  The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) tries to address this problem by setting housing and business targets in areas that are out of balance, but with limited success.  The state can add teeth to this effort, by mandating balance for each city, with penalties for those jurisdictions which do not show progress in addressing the issue.
  • Smaran:
    • All poor people should get at least a tiny house or some kind of shelter.
  • Dhyana:
    • People should say only friendly things to each other except to bad guys.
  • Paul Higgins
    • There oughta be a law regulating homeless encampments. It is obvious that shelters and indoor living are not a solution for every homeless person, given the diversity of mental illnesses, and the safety issues with many shelters. There seems to be a ‘war on the homeless’ currently. Many recent laws criminalize homelessness, and every time a encampment springs up, police wait until it is well established and then tear it all down and clear it out- and to what end? Where are these people supposed to go?

      We should enact a law that legalizes a regulated homeless encampment. This could use vacant/blighted parcels, and designated camping spots, and be monitored by community police or liasons. It would also include facilities such as trash cans/ compost piles, portapotties/compost toilets, potable water fountains, showers, and sheet-mulched areas for camping. The area could be re-mulched every so often. This could fall under the purview of parks/public works/sherrif/health system, or more sensibly be a combined effort with some capacity/staff time given by each department.

  • Tom Kabat
    • To meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets we to need to transition from gas water heating to new electric Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWH) that efficiently use electricity to capture ambient heat to for water heating.  HPWHs also allow the deployment of additional renewable energy to the grid since they are a controllable load that can charge up a tank of water when the grid has excess electricity and can coast across the electric tight periods.  Installing the HPWH in retrofit cases currently requires licenses in two areas (an electrical license and a plumbing license or a full general contractors license.)  To meet the need for jobs and a low cost installations a new simple license should be created.  HPWH installer license ( trained and tested to remove gas water heaters, cap gas lines, install electric conduit and a simple 240 volt circuit and install the HPWH and the associated condensate drain line.  The licenses could be called “Electrification License” since a subset of the skills needed would also allow the installation of home Electric Vehicle chargers ( level 2 or level 1 ).
      Also a law should encourage local building departments to develop a simple conforming building permit category (not separate full electrical and plumbing permits) for HPWH with a single inspection of the installation.  The permit should be available online and in a post installation mode as many water heaters need to be replaced as they fail before offices open.
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