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Water, environmental issues among local lawmakers' top concerns


Water, education, the environment and services for the developmentally disabled rank high on the list of priorities this year for the North Coast's legislative delegation.

State Sen. Lois Wolk said responding to California's drought will be her "first and foremost priority."

The Davis Democrat, whose district includes 76,433 registered voters in southern Sonoma County, said she will work with Gov. Jerry Brown and party leadership to "come up with a very specific series of actions and money to get out the door to encourage conservation, recycling, the things that will work this year."

Wolk introduced SB 848 on Jan. 9 to address longer-term water issues. The legislation seeks voter permission to borrow $6.475 billion for an array of water projects.

Wolk summarized the bill's goals as recycling, conservation, groundwater management and storage, "all kinds of things the local water districts and communities have wanted for many, many years."

Wolk is supporting legislation that would create universal preschool in California for 4-year-olds. She said she also is exploring how to put nurses back in schools.

Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said she wanted to focus on legislation she introduced last year that would levy a tax on oil extraction in California. The bill, SB 241, died in committee on Jan. 21. It would have raised an estimated $2 billion annually, 93 percent of which Evans proposed to steer toward public colleges and universities. The rest would be used to help shore up the state's beleaguered parks system, which she also identified as a legislative priority this year.

Evans co-authored a bill that would require BB, pellet and airsoft guns to be painted in bright colors, making them easier to distinguish from real weapons. The bill would prohibit realistic-looking airsoft BB guns like the one 13-year-old Andy Lopez was carrying when the Santa Rosa teen was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy in October. The Senate last week passed the legislation, which is now headed to the Assembly.

Evans, who is not seeking re-election this year, said she also wants to improve public access to the state's court system.

On the Assembly side, Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, said California needs to "maintain fiscal discipline," reinvest in education and pay down the "wall of debt we borrowed to get out of the Great Recession."

Levine, whose district includes southern Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Marin County, said he'll also push for increasing the use of recycled water to help deal with drought conditions.

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, an Arcata Democrat whose district includes northern Santa Rosa, said he wants to concentrate on getting more organic material out of landfills by increasing the amount of composting and bio-energy production.

Chesbro, who cannot run for re-election this year due to term limits, said he has more work to do on "forestry reform." Specifically, he said he wants to create more incentives for forest landowners to keep that land in production and not convert it to vineyards or houses.

Chesbro said he also wants to rebuild community services for people who have developmental disabilities.

That issue also is on the mind of Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, who said one of her priorities this year is the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center. The Eldridge facility is in Yamada's district, which takes in Sonoma Valley, Rohnert Park, Bennett Valley and Oakmont.

"Certainly water is at the top of the agenda," said Yamada, who is the senior member of the Assembly's Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

Yamada, who also faces a term limit this year, said her priorities also include issues related to the elderly, including caregiving, access to medical care and pensions.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.