SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian signed legislation Monday that will encourage recycling of beer and soft-drink containers by offering consumers a penny pay-back for returning them to neighborhood centers.
And taking a modest step toward his goal of making insurance easier to obtain, Deukmejian signed 13 bills designed to help local governments, foster parents and businesses obtain and keep liability insurance.
Rushing to complete action on more than 250 bills before his deadline of midnight tonight, the Republican governor also signed two measures to crack down on regulations for tour bus operators. The measures were inspired by the Walker River bus crash in May that killed 21 people.
The signing of the recycling measure climaxed a 20-year battle between environmentalists and the powerful beverage industry over how to encourage the recycling of beverage containers that historically have been discarded, all too often as litter along highways and beaches.
"We're extremely pleased," said Bill Shireman, executive director of Californians Against Waste, an environmentalist group and supporter of the legislation. "We think it's a huge step forward in our long-term campaign to clean up California beaches and parks, and we're proud to have the governor on board."
An alternative to the nickel-per-container measures proposed by environmentalists in the past, the compromise will require beer and soft drink distributors to pay a penny into a state redemption fund for each bottle or can they sell, starting Sept. 1, 1987. The cost is expected to be passed on to beverage purchasers.
Consumers will be eligible to receive a penny per container when they return the glass, plastic or aluminum containers to neighborhood recycling centers, which are to be established under the legislation authored by Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles).
If the one-cent refund does not encourage a minimum return rate of 65% for a particular kind of container, the amount of the fee and the refund will increase to two cents in 1989. By 1992, if the redemption rate is still unmet, the rate will climb to three cents.
Because legislators assume that part of the redemption fund will sit untapped by consumers who discard their containers anyway, 10% of the fund has been earmarked to help finance the employment of underprivileged urban youths.
Environmentalists say the provision represents an unusual attempt to attract the political backing of poorer, inner-city residents who have been less likely in the past to back environmental causes.
The bill's supporters tout the provision as an "exciting element" that will encourage adoption of the law in other states that, like California, have resisted the more traditional nickel-refund "bottle bill" proposal.
The money will go to urban conservation corps centers in major cities throughout the state, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.
"It could be quite a selling point around the country," said Mike Paparian, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club.
Under the law, the state Department of Conservation must ensure that recycling centers are established within half a mile of every large supermarket.
The recycling centers can be anything from reverse vending machines that accept beverage containers to centers run by charitable organizations. If a neighborhood has no recycling center by Dec. 31, 1987, stores in the area that sell beverages will be required to accept the containers.
Steps in Insurance Reform
The 13 insurance bills signed by Deukmejian are the result of attempts by the Legislature and the governor to impose major reforms on the insurance industry after the passage of Proposition 51 in June.
However, largely because of opposition from the insurance industry and the state's trial lawyers, this year's legislation fell short of the ambitious goals of Deukmejian and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco).
Among the measures signed by the governor Monday were:
- A bill by Assemblyman Dan Hauser (D-Arcata) designed to help small local governments that have been unable to obtain liability insurance. The legislation will allow cities and counties to pool their resources and insure themselves.
- A measure by Sen. Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim) that creates a short-term state fund to insure foster parents, who have also had difficulty obtaining liability insurance.
- Legislation by Brown that will prohibit an insurer from canceling commercial policies without legitimate cause before they expire. It also prohibits the non-renewal of a policy without adequate notice.
The tour bus legislation prompted by the Walker River tragedy includes a measure by Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) that requires the state to notify the owners of tour bus companies if their drivers have been convicted of moving violations, been involved in accidents, or had their licenses suspended. Any owner who allows a bus operator to drive with a suspended license would face up to six months in jail.