Gaines Gazette: November 1, 2017

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Salute To Veterans

Remember our Veterans button graphic

As Americans around the country pause next week to honor those who have bravely served our nation, we all should remember that Veterans Day is not just another day to display the American flag. It is a day that has special meaning to every citizen, not just those who proudly wore the uniform of our country.

Veterans Day may just be the most important secular holiday we recognize each year. For without the sacrifices made by every man and woman who has protected our country, we would not be able to enjoy the freedoms that are the hallmark of this great nation.

Veterans Day is an opportunity to pay tribute to all of those individuals who have served or are currently serving in the military, often in the face of extreme danger around the world. They demonstrate extraordinary courage and dedication while they honor America and its people.

To all of you who served, I salute you and wish God’s blessings upon you.

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Gas Tax Kicks In November 1

The largest gas tax increase in California’s history takes effect today. Motorists will now be paying an additional $0.12 per gallon of gasoline and $0.20 per gallon of diesel fuel as a result of Senate Bill 1, the $5.2 billion annual transportation tax proposal passed earlier this year.

California already has some of the highest gas taxes and worst roads in the country. Starting today, our gas taxes are second to none. The frustrating thing is that we didn’t have to take a single penny from Californians in new taxes to fix our roads. But after years of diverting billions of transportation dollars to ridiculous pet projects like the High Speed Rail, we’re now left paying for the same service twice.

So how are the people supposed to believe that this time, the new gas tax money collected will actually be spent on transportation when 30-percent of the new funds have already been allocated to non-road projects like state parks and mass transit?

Also frustrating is the timing of the gas tax increase. It’s no coincidence that today, November 1, is the day when California retailers begin switching from summer to the less-expensive winter gasoline. Winter blends usually run about $0.12 less per gallon than summer blend. Essentially, the switch to winter blend will be even with the gas tax increase, so Sacramento politicians are hoping consumers won’t notice the bump at the pump.

This was not the only option. Republicans developed a transportation plan that would have provided funding without raising taxes. But apparently we’re in a legislative contest to see how expensive we can make staple goods and how unlivable we can make this state for the poor and middle class. We aren’t taxing champagne and caviar. Transportation is a basic need to live and work and raise a family.

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Merle Haggard Memorial Overpass

Senator Gaines with the Haggard Family
Senator Gaines joins members of the Haggard family to dedicate memorial overpass.

Merle Haggard was a country music legend and I had the honor of joining members of the Haggard family, other dignitaries and community leaders at a dedication ceremony naming the overpass at the interchange of Interstate 5 and State Highway Route 44 in Redding as the “Merle Haggard Memorial Overpass.”

The passing of this music icon was not only a great loss to his family and friends, but also to his millions of fans around the world. He was utterly unique in both his life and his music and I believe this memorial is a fitting tribute to him in Shasta County where he called home.

Merle Haggard lived in Palo Cedro in Shasta County for years before his death last year at the age of 79. I authored Senate Concurrent Resolution 139, allowing this overpass to be dedicated in Haggard’s memory.

Although Legislative action is required to name state highways, state law precludes the use of state funds to pay for memorial signs. Luckily, Billy Pilgrim and Patrick John of country radio station Q97 in Redding took on the cause and spearheaded the fundraising effort by informing their listeners and selling t-shirts featuring an image of the memorial sign. The response was enormous and the money was quickly raised.

According to the California Department of Transportation, thousands of vehicles drive daily across the “Merle Haggard Memorial Overpass” and millions of drivers will see the signs each year.

“Merle would’ve been proud to have an overpass named after him,” said widow, Theresa Haggard.

Throughout his career, Merle Haggard achieved numerous hits including “Swinging Doors,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” “Workin’ Man Blues,” and “Okie from Muskogee.” These hits earned him multiple GRAMMY Awards, the Kennedy Center honors and various Academy of Country Music Awards.

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Action Taken On Illegal Marijuana Grows

I am thankful that the state has answered my call for additional resources to combat the explosion of illegal marijuana grows in the north state.

Months ago I called on Governor Brown to declare a State of Emergency in Siskiyou County, to unlock state resources that could help eradicate illicit marijuana grows and the problems that come along with them. I’ve received word that numerous state agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, California National Guard and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, are dedicating additional personnel to help local law enforcement fight this problem.

My call to action made a difference. But make no mistake, this fight won’t be won with the manpower we have now. Even with the new resources it’s not nearly enough. We need every relevant agency and department pulling together to snuff out this problem. It’s harvest season for outdoor illegal marijuana grows, and vigilance is needed to stop these truckloads of marijuana from heading out of the state.

I made it clear to the Governor that a criminal and environmental disaster is taking place. This isn’t Cheech and Chong growing a pot plant in their closet, it’s organized crime committing offenses on an industrial scale. It’s killing our soils and water, threatening ranches, and degrading the quality of life for California citizens.

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Touring Nevada County Fire Devastation

Senator Gaines tours devastation from the Lobo Fire in Nevada County.
Senator Gaines tours devastation from the Lobo Fire in Nevada County.

I recently joined the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department in touring the Rough and Ready area of Nevada County affected by the Lobo Fire and pledged to do whatever it takes to help local residents rebuild their lives in the community where 21 homes were destroyed.

The severity of what I saw left behind in the wrath of this destructive fire is beyond imagination. My heart breaks for the residents who have lost their homes and my office stands ready to help residents affected by the fire and do whatever it takes to help the community pick up the pieces and rebuild the local economy.

I was joined by Nevada County Sheriff’s Captain Shannan Moon and Sheriff’s Deputies Sam Brown and Mike Sullivan. I also received a briefing from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

I encourage local and state government and planning agencies to cut red tape and make it as easy as possible for affected homeowners to get the rebuilding process started without unnecessary delay.

Bureaucracy and red tape should not stand in the way of fire victims throughout our state trying to get on with their lives after these tremendous fire tragedies. I urge my colleagues at all levels of government to immediately adopt more stream-lined and efficient processes so Californians can rebuild their homes.

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Property Tax Relief For Fire Damage

Have you or a loved one been affected by the recent fires in California? If your property has been damaged, you may be eligible for property tax relief. In many cases, the damaged property can be reappraised in its current condition, with some taxes refunded to the property owner. Once rebuilt, the property’s pre-damaged value will be restored.

To qualify for property tax relief, you must file a claim with your county assessors’ office within 12 months from the date of damage or destruction. The loss estimate must be at least $10,000 of current market value to qualify.

Owners of eligible property may also apply for deferral of the next property tax installment on the regular secured roll or tax payments on the supplemental roll, without penalties or interest. The disaster must be the result of a Governor-proclaimed state of emergency. When a timely claim for deferral is filed, the next property tax installment payment is deferred without penalty or interest until the county assessor has reassessed the property and a corrected tax bill has been sent to the property owner.

For further information on property tax disaster relief, please see the Frequently Asked Questions on the Board of Equalization’s website (boe.ca.gov).

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Michael “Mikey” Hallenbeck Memorial Highway

Senator Gaines attends dedication ceremony for the Michael “Mikey” Hallenbeck Memorial Highway.
Senator Gaines attends dedication ceremony for the Michael “Mikey” Hallenbeck Memorial Highway.

Michael “Mikey” Hallenbeck was a 21-year-old firefighter who died on August 8, 2015 after a tree fell on him as he was fighting the Sierra Fire. I was honored to help dedicate the stretch of Highway 50 from Mt. Ralston Road to Echo Summit in his memory as the Michael “Mikey” Hallenbeck Memorial Highway. It was the perfect time to be honoring Mikey, because our state is up against some of the most extreme fire challenges it has ever faced. It drives home a point that is all too clear to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to fight wildfires and protect our lives and our property. Mikey Hollenbeck knew those risks but still set out to do his job, to do his part in protecting the Tahoe Basin and everyone who lives here from the effects of the Sierra Fire. I know that his family, his brothers and sisters in the firefighting profession, and everyone whose lives he touched, miss him dearly and respect his brave work. God bless this young man who gave his life for others.

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Governor Brown Signs Sanctuary State Bill

Last month, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 54 (D-de León), a bill that will turn California into a “sanctuary state.”

I want to know what other crimes California is going to ignore?

Senate Bill 54 will quickly transform California into a giant magnet pulling every illegal alien criminal in the country to our state. It will teach a horrible lesson to our children that they need to be protected from law enforcement, not by it.

Let us remember that we are not talking about immigrants here, but illegal immigrants, who have flouted our laws, jumped ahead of the law abiding millions abroad who want to come to the United States, but respect its laws enough to obey them.

This bill makes a mockery of the rule of law. It attacks the very foundations of the country. If we don’t control our borders, we cease to be a nation.

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November Is National Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. This is a cause that hits close to home as my youngest daughter is living with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas loses the ability to produce insulin - a hormone essential to digestion. An estimated 40,000 people will be newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes this year. The good news is that there are ways to take charge of your type 1 or type 2 diabetes for a longer, healthier life.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) holds more than 200 walks nationally every year. These walks connect an extensive community of families, volunteers and donors who are committed to fighting this serious disease. For more information, visit http://norcal.jdrf.org/.

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Thomas J. Cosgrove Memorial Highway

Senator Gaines joins Karen Cosgrove at ceremony dedicating highway in her husband Tom Cosgrove’s memory.
Senator Gaines joins Karen Cosgrove at ceremony dedicating highway in her husband Tom Cosgrove’s memory.

It was my privilege to dedicate State Route 65 Lincoln Bypass in Placer County as the Thomas J. Cosgrove Memorial Highway. Over his many years of service to the Lincoln community, Tom held positions on countless local government Boards, Councils and Commissions, including a whopping 18 years of distinguished service on the Lincoln City Council, serving four years as Mayor, and as the Lincoln Chamber CEO. Tom also was a long time member of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, and it's in this area that he spearheaded the Highway 65 Bypass. This sign will serve as a daily reminder of Tom’s many contributions and dedicated service to the Lincoln community.

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Taxpayer Protection Bill Vetoed By Governor

Unfortunately, my Senate Bill 11, a measure that would have proactively waived penalties and interest for taxpayers when a California Board of Equalization (BOE) or its successor agency’s system failure prevents them from making tax payments on time, was vetoed by Governor Brown.

I’m extremely disappointed that Governor Brown chose not to protect California taxpayers and businesses. Vetoing this bill allows the government to continue making mistakes and leaves taxpayers paying the price. Senate Bill 11 was simple and fair, two elements of good governance that will remain elusive in California.

Under current law, tax payments made after the filing deadline are subject to interest and penalty. The BOE or its successor agency is currently authorized to waive any penalties or interest if the late payment is due to a disaster or agency error, however, it is the responsibility of the taxpayer to file paperwork and petition for a refund.

Senate Bill 11 came on the heels of four separate BOE computer system failures over the past year, two of which occurred during peak filing deadlines leaving taxpayers unable to pay their tax bills on time.

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