Politics

Brown signs bills on pipeline safety, shark fin ban

Friday, October 07, 2011

With only two more days left to act on a pile of legislation, Gov. Jerry Brown signed or vetoed scores of bills, several of which have a big impact on the Bay Area.

In light of last year's gas pipeline explosions in San Bruno that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes, Brown took steps to make California neighborhoods safer. He signed a number of bills to help prevent such tragedies from happening again, including the requirement that all utility companies have an automatic or remote controlled shut off valve.

"Had PG&E and other utilities gone ahead and put those values in these highly concentrated areas, the San Bruno fire would not have been as bad in destruction and lives lost," St. Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said.

The governor also sided with public employee unions, moving all ballot initiatives to November elections only.

While he said it's consistent with the Constitution, critics slammed the last minute bill because an initiative slated for the June ballot limits the use of union dues on political activity.

Now it'll go on the November ballot, when there's a greater chance to defeat it with bigger turnout.

Brown also weighed in on the controversial shark fin ban, probably one of the most heavily lobbied bills this year. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio wrote the Brown, urging him to sign it. Even the head of Virgin Airlines felt compelled to give the governor a ring.

"The phone is off the hook, people say, 'I want to talk about this one,' 'I want to talk about that one,' I got a call from Richard Branson yesterday from Australia, he's worried about shark fins," Brown said last month.

In the end, Brown wanted to protect the shark population, which researchers say has declined by more than 90 percent as the shark is dumped back into the ocean and left to die. He signed a law banning the possession and sale of shark fins, mostly used for shark fin soup.

It's a victory for animal rights and environmental groups.

"NOAA estimates about 85 percent of the trade in shark fin is moving through California ports; this will stop that in its tracks," Humane Society spokesperson Jennifer Fearing said.

Some in the Chinese community felt the ban picked on their culture.

The governor also signed a bill that allows existing stocks of shark fins to be sold in California until July 2013.

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Tags:
jerry brown, sacramento, bills, san bruno fire, sharks, animal, food, politics, nannette miranda
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