Manuel Pérez Bills Signed by Governor

Sacramento, California - Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella) is pleased to report that three more bills he has authored have been signed into law by Governor Brown.

AB 1255, Renewable Energy Planning Grants (Chapter 250, Statutes of 2012), simplifies the process to be used by local governments to apply for planning grants to encourage renewable energy development.  The new law allows counties within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan area (including Riverside and Imperial) to qualify for the grants by entering into a memorandum of understanding with the California Energy Commission.

“The renewable energy planning grant program will help our local jurisdictions make the necessary revisions and modifications to planning documents in order to facilitate renewable energy build out in our region,” said Pérez.  “This new law makes it easier for local governments to be eligible to apply for the funding.”

The renewable energy planning grant program was created by the 2011 bill authored by Pérez, ABx13, which makes available $7 million in grants for local governments to update their zoning ordinances and other planning documents needed for renewable energy development.

AB 1830, Mobile home Park Water Rates Protection (Chapter 539, Statutes of 2012), ensures fairness in the application of the laws protecting water customers from price gouging by their water providers. The new law clarifies that if the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) rules that mobile home park residents are being overcharged for their water, the customers are eligible to receive reimbursement for the overcharges.  The bill only applies to mobile home parks where the water source is a private well on the property.

“This bill is about fairness under the law,” explained Pérez. “The law should apply equally, regardless of where one lives or purchases water service. This bill ensures that mobile home park residents are eligible to access the same protections and remedies as other water customers.”

The need for this policy remedy surfaced due to the January ruling by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regarding the exorbitant water rates charged by Sunbird Mobile home Park in Thermal, California.  The PUC ruled in favor of the residents, declaring the park’s $500-$1,000 monthly water bills for arsenic contaminated water to be “unjust” and “unreasonable” and instituted “rate relief,” issuing a revised schedule of reasonable water rates to be used by the park.  However, the PUC determined it lacked authority under the statute to grant reimbursement to residents as part of “rate relief”, even though this remedy is enjoyed by water customers of Investor-Owned Utilities.

The Governor also signed AB 880 Mirage Trail Access (Chapter 525, Statutes of 2012), jointly authored by Pérez with Asm. Brian Nestande, to re-open the upper portion of the Mirage Hiking Trail – also known as the “Bump & Grind” – which was closed by the Department of Fish & Game (DFG) in 2011.  DFG closed the last half mile of the trail due to habitat protection concerns related to the endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, yet the department was unable to provide scientific data to support its decision.

“This compromise strikes a good balance that enables people to use the trail for recreation, while still being respectful of the wildlife that makes it so unique and distinctive,” said Pérez.  “I am pleased to have worked with Mr. Nestande and Coachella Valley residents on this locally relevant legislation.”

The bill initially called for the full opening of the trail but a compromise was struck with DFG, opening the trail for nine months out of the year and closing it during the three-month lambing season. The new law will sunset in five years and during that time a study must be conducted to assess the impacts of hiker access to the trail relative to the sheep population.

Pérez provided the legislative vehicle making this bill possible and assisted with the agency negotiations resulting in the compromise.

All three bills go into effect on January 1, 2013. 

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