Local lawmakers eye Cemex, transportation, disaster preparedness

State Sen. Scott Wilk (pictured) and other local legislators reconvened Monday for a second year of their two-year session in Sacramento. Courtesy of Scott Wilk
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Santa Clarita Valley legislators joined other California lawmakers on Monday as they reconvened in Sacramento to tackle issues ranging from disaster preparedness to the Cemex mega mine. 

Members of the Assembly and Senate kicked off their second year of a two-year session, picking up unfinished business from 2019 with bills that have until the end of January to become law should they pass at least one legislative chamber. 

While some have holdover bills queued for 2020, local lawmakers started the year by introducing new measures that could directly impact the SCV in transportation, education and the environment. 

A public approach to ending Cemex’s project

State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, wants to help the public weigh in on the Cemex mega mine conversation “before (it) can proceed,” with  Senate Bill 797, which he introduced Monday. 

The measure would reopen the public protest period to allow the community to “make a case to state regulators as to why the Cemex mega mine would be disastrous to the Santa Clarita Valley,” Wilk said in a statement. 

“We can’t control what the federal government does, but we can impact how the state looks at these issues. A project of this magnitude should never be allowed to proceed after 30 years without allowing public comment,” he added. 

The ongoing legal battle between Cemex and the federal government continued late last year when the Bureau of Land Management ruled that the mining company owes the government more than $25 million in payments “in lieu of” production. 

Electrifying the commuter rail

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, announced Monday a bill to “electrify California’s commuter rail system” in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut commute times in half by January 2028. 

Funds from the California High-Speed Rail Project would be redirected for the electrification, according to a Lackey news release. 

Assembly Bill 1848, or “Republican Green New Deal,” would provide $4 billion to the Southern California Regional Rail Authority to fund improvements to the Metrolink commuter rail system along the Antelope Valley Line, which travels from Palmdale to Union Station in Los Angeles through the SCV, as well as corridors in Riverside and Oceanside. 

“California deserves immediate solutions, not baby steps,” said Lackey in a statement. “This Republican New Deal is a common sense solution to get cars off the road without spending new taxpayer dollars. High-Speed Rail is a disaster – it’s time to put that money towards projects that will actually do some good.”

Protecting schools during a state of emergency

In her first order of business this session, Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, introduced Assembly Bill 1837, a measure aimed at protecting schools and school districts during a state of emergency, such as a natural disaster, by reducing the financial impact education systems often face. 

“Multiple fires devastated my district this past fall, and we must make sure our schools aren’t bearing the burden of the aftermath,” Smith announced Monday via social media. 

State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, also highlighted a focus on disaster preparedness. In a statement Monday, he said: 

“While fire and power shutoff season has passed, this is not the time for ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ If we don’t act boldly and with a sense of urgency, hundreds of thousands will lose power — or worse, such as their home, business, or their lives to wildfires — in 2020. I’m committed to creating a more resilient California by both unleashing billions in disaster preparedness funds and redesigning our grid to empower clean, local energy that lowers our energy bills and keeps us safer.”

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