SACRAMENTO — Assemblyman James Gallagher (R- Yuba City) was successful in advancing three bills through committee hearings last week, which he introduced in response to the Oroville Dam crisis and the extreme weather events of this season. Gallagher’s legislation improves dam inspections and infrastructure planning, enhances penalties for crimes committed during an evacuation, and streamlines levee repairs.
Gallagher’s AB 1270 was passed by the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee with unanimous support. The bill would require the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to perform annual visual and physical inspections of dams and reservoirs. AB 1270 would also require the DWR to prepare and share with the legislature an annual 5-year infrastructure funding, improvement, and maintenance plan.
“Comprehensive dam safety inspections and requiring the DWR to share their infrastructure improvement and maintenance plan for other aging dams will help ensure problems are caught and fixed before they become catastrophic,” said Gallagher.
The Public Safety Committee also passed Gallagher’s AB 1595, which closes a loophole where a person who commits theft or second-degree burglary during an emergency evacuation would not be subject to the same "looting" penalties if the official declaration of emergency had not been proclaimed by the governing body. This increased penalty includes a longer jail sentence and mandatory community service in the disaster affected area. In the case of Oroville, there was a 6 hour gap from the time the evacuation order was given and the time a state of emergency was declared. AB 1595 expands the crime of looting to include when the conduct occurs during an “evacuation order”.
“Some individuals used the evacuation to commit crimes. For example, Vietnam veteran Mike Pomeroy had his military medals, including his purple heart, stolen. People that take advantage of emergency situations to commit crimes should face harsher penalties, and my legislation ensures this is the case,” stated Gallagher.
Lastly, Assemblyman Gallagher was successful in advancing AB 1273 out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. This bill renews a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for critical levees that are part of the State Plan of Flood Control.
“The severe weather events of this season in addition to the fluctuation in flows due to the Oroville spillway failure have caused millions of dollars in damages to our levees. This CEQA exemption will help these levees be repaired in a timely and cost-effective manner,” said Gallagher
AB 1270, 1595, and 1273 are now headed to the Assembly Appropriations committee for further consideration.