Gaines Gazette: September 4, 2018

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Carr Fire Update

Senator Gaines visits the Carr Fire

Although the Carr Fire in Shasta County is now 100-percent contained, it has left in its wake a path of 229,651 acres burned, almost 1,100 residences destroyed and seven lives tragically lost. It’s now the sixth most destructive fire in state history and the most destructive ever for Shasta County.

I visited the region a number of times to see the situation first-hand and to offer my assistance in any way. I received briefings from the Unified Incident Commanders on the firefighting operations. I met with the Governor, local leaders and fire officials for a meeting where we discussed the continued firefighting plan and relief efforts. I joined US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in Redding for an important “Wildfire Roundtable” discussion.

I visited with folks at the Shasta College Evacuation Center and saw the devastated homes in West Redding. I volunteered at the Salvation Army USA Distribution Center where thousands of families received donations and meals. I also helped students get ready for the new school year, by partnering with Bethel Church, Redding for a backpack giveaway where hundreds of students received backpacks filled with school supplies.

I attended National Night Out in Pollock Pines and paid tribute to Don Ray Smith, the bulldozer operator who lost his life fighting the Carr Fire. I also attended the memorial service of Redding firefighter Jeremy Stoke’s, which was a somber reminder of the dangerous work they do to protect our safety.

During my time among the tragedy, I saw people opening their hearts, homes, and pantries to help their neighbors. The sense of community and fellowship shown throughout Shasta County was remarkable. Tough times reveal character, and the people of Redding should be proud of how they answered the call in that time of need.

My heart goes out to all of you who have been affected by this devastating and destructive fire. Please feel free to contact my office at senator.gaines@senate.ca.gov or at (916) 771-5840 if there is any assistance we can provide.

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Take My California Wildfires Survey!

Graphic of a SurveyThe wildfires burning across Northern California have been unbelievably devastating. Containing fires and putting them out is only the first hurdle. The next challenge comes with the painful process of rebuilding lives and homes.

This wildfire epidemic has ignited a new discussion in Sacramento, challenging utility ratepayers, the insured, and taxpayers. Who should pay for the billions in wildfire damages?

The legislature established a committee to look at a bill offering solutions to California’s wildfire problem and the costs and liabilities for fire damages. That sounds good until you remember this is the same legislature that didn’t invest in adequate forest management, even as the state’s general fund grew by tens of billions of dollars in the past six years.

With that in mind, here’s one easy prediction from the legislature: Your costs are going up.

You will pay one way or another. Your electricity rates - already about 60-percent higher than the rest of the nation - will likely go up, as the state lets the utility responsible for the fires pass costs along to you.

Your insurance rates – already skyrocketing for rural homeowners looking for fire hazard insurance – will likely shoot even higher to cover increased costs pushed on them by the state.

Your taxes, already the highest in the nation, will only push higher as the legislature and the Governor decide that what has really been fueling the fire epidemic is taxpayers keeping too much of their money.

Look for some surcharge or other way to drain taxpayers as a “solution” to the state’s wildfires. In California, every problem is an opportunity to put more fees, charges, and other costs on the backs of the people working harder than ever but falling farther behind.

Instead of the billions spent on High-Speed Rail, existing resources should be spent where they will actually count. CAL FIRE should be allotted every resource it needs to protect Californians from the infernos that too-often wreck property and steal lives.

Lightning strikes and sparks will continue to fly, and every hot, dry area with trees will have fires. But there is a big opportunity to manage forests and reduce risks, all without burning taxpayers and ratepayers in the process.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Please take a moment to complete this brief online survey. If you have any questions or need additional information, contact my office at senator.gaines@senate.ca.gov or at (916) 771-5840.

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Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Senator Gaines presents Senate Concurrent Resolution 142 to Bill Doss with the California Prostate Cancer Coalition.
Senator Gaines presents Senate Concurrent Resolution 142 to Bill Doss with the California Prostate Cancer Coalition.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and I was pleased to have Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 142 pass out of the legislature that encourages increased awareness of the disease and the importance of early detection and treatment.

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time for men to talk with their health care providers about this disease so that they can make informed decisions about maintaining their prostate health.

In California, approximately 15,190 men are predicted to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, and, of this number, approximately 3,490 men are predicted to die of this disease. Although prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men, when detected early it also boasts some of the highest survival rates.

For information and resources on prostate cancer, visit the California Prostate Cancer Coalition at www.prostatecalif.org.

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Call For Special Legislative Session On CA Wildfires

Senator Gaines joins (left to right) Assemblyman Brian Dahle, Governor Jerry Brown and Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko for a Carr Fire briefing.
Senator Gaines joins (left to right) Assemblyman Brian Dahle, Governor Jerry Brown and Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko for a Carr Fire briefing.

I recently submitted a letter to Governor Brown requesting he convene a special session of the legislature this fall to address California’s wildfire crisis.

The Governor and I were together in Shasta County where we witnessed the Carr Fire devastation, and how these fires can flatten entire communities in minutes. California must do more to prevent fires, protect property and save lives. I’m calling on the Governor to convene a special session so we can take action on making our state fire safe.

While the legislative conference committee focused its attention on some wildfire issues, there was simply not enough time for meaningful action to be taken on this worsening fire situation before the legislature adjourned.

I propose a special session this fall dedicated to addressing wildfire-related issues, including: fuels reduction strategies; hardening of the urban/wilderness interface; increased logging and increased biomass use; improved federal, state, and local coordination; innovative strategies for fire suppression and forest management; private party incentives for fuels reductions; specific regional challenges facing our state; and local autonomy to address specific local fire conditions.

I suggest the solutions come with aggressive timelines, and hard-and-fast completion dates so that all parties can be held accountable. I also ask that the solutions do not place any greater burden on the backs of taxpayers.

I know that too often the first impulse in politics is to raise taxes to solve any problem, however, this state is sitting on a multi-billion dollar surplus. That money should be used to make California fire safe, protect our citizens and avoid billions in future spending through better prevention.

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Happy 100th Anniversary Mather Airport!

Senator Gaines presents a Senate Resolution to celebrate Mather Airport's 100th anniversary.
Senator Gaines presents a Senate Resolution to celebrate Mather Airport’s 100th anniversary.

I helped Sacramento Mather Airport celebrate their 100th anniversary by presenting a Senate Resolution to Ted Gaebler, Chairman of the Mather Airport Board of Directors at their monthly board meeting. Congratulations on 100 years of aviation history and service to our community!

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Penalties For Wildfire & Disaster Looting Denied

Over the past few years, we’ve unfortunately seen an increase in the number of suspects arrested for looting evacuated homes during the California wildfires. To steal precious belongings from fire victims during an already frightening and stressful time is absolutely reprehensible. That’s why I proposed stiffening the penalties for anyone caught looting in a disaster area during a state of emergency.

Most recently, about a half-dozen looting cases have been reported in the wake of each of the Santa Rosa and Shasta County wildfires, with people entering evacuated neighborhoods and breaking through the doors of homes still standing, stealing personal property such as jewelry, electronics and credit cards.

I suggested an addition to the legislature’s wildfire Conference Committee legislation that would have made it a mandatory felony for committing burglary or grand theft during and within an affected county in a state of emergency, local emergency or evacuation order, resulting from an earthquake, fire, flood, riot, or other disaster.

Current law involving looting is a “wobbler,” meaning that either a misdemeanor or a felony can be charged depending on the circumstances. The bill would have made looting during an emergency or disaster an automatic felony and also increased the required community service time. Unfortunately, this bill was not adopted by the Conference Committee.

I wanted to make it crystal clear that robbery - especially during a time of crisis - will result in serious consequences. My hope was that by increasing the penalty, we would decrease the amount of cases and deter these criminals. I vow to continue exploring ways to make sure anyone even thinking about looting knows that jail time will be their reward.

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Welcoming Inductive Automation

Senator Gaines celebrates Inductive Automation's new headquarters during a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Senator Gaines celebrates Inductive Automation’s new headquarters during a ribbon cutting ceremony.

I joined Inductive Automation as they celebrated their new headquarters in Folsom with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Inductive Automation is a supplier of web-based industrial automation software that is a vital component in manufacturing facilities by creating real time data access, and increasing efficiency. The company began in 2003 with a staff of 20 and now boasts over 100 employees. Thank you for choosing the First Senate District as your home and congratulations on the milestone!

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Committee Rejected Audit Request Of New CA Tax Authorities

Senator Gaines presents his audit request during a Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing.
Senator Gaines presents his audit request during a Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) denied my request for an audit of California’s newest tax agencies - the California Department of Taxes and Fee Administration (CDTFA) and the Office of Tax Administration (OTA). The audit would have examined the taxpayer funds used to establish the two new government bureaucracies as well as the various disruptions experienced by the taxpaying public since these agencies were formed.

Californians deserve a thorough audit to know exactly how their tax dollars are being spent and the services they can expect in return. Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for government mismanagement and mistakes. We must hold them accountable.

In 2017, the legislature passed the Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act that stripped the California Board of Equalization of much of its tax collecting authority along with its oversight of the administrative appeals process relating to tax and fee collection. In turn, the legislature created two new entities to do the job with the CDTFA and OTA. Establishing these new departments is projected to cost taxpayers millions this year alone.

Since the transition, taxpayers have complained about a variety issues with the CDTFA’s website, including denied account access, outdated license and permit information, inability to make payments, and broken online assistance functions. Taxpayers have also experienced harassment over payments they do not owe and criticized CDTFA’s misplacement of supporting paperwork when they attempt to resolve false claim issues.

An audit of CDTFA and OTA would have assured me, my constituents and the public, that taxpayer interests are being served. It’s unfortunate that this information will remain in the dark and that government accountability and transparency will continue to be elusive.

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Bill To Help Taxpayers Heads To The Governor

I’m pleased to report that my Senate Bill 1246, that will streamline and modernize the process for expediting property tax refunds to California taxpayers, passed off the Assembly floor and is now on the Governor’s desk.

SB 1246 is simple and fair, two elements of good governance that are too often missing in California. We must resolve any overpayment issues as efficiently and quickly as possible, and get taxpayers back what is rightfully theirs.

Under current law, an outdated and archaic “refund claim form” is required to be mailed to a member of the public who is owed money due to an overpayment of taxes, penalties, assessments, interest or other costs associated with local taxes. The claim form must be signed and returned by the taxpayer before the county can issue a refund.

SB 1246 will speed up the process to allow the county to simply pay the taxpayer what is owed when an overpayment or refund is discovered without the time-consuming paperwork required under current law.

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