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Gov. gets bills on guns, taxis

Senate sends measures to fine bandit cabs and end firearms loophole to Schwarzenegger for his signature.

August 20, 2008|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers took action on various scourges of Southern California life Tuesday, including gun violence, traffic congestion and bandit taxicabs.

With less than two weeks left to act on legislation, the state Senate sent dozens of bills to the governor, including a measure sought by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to outlaw the carrying of loaded firearms in vehicles in unincorporated areas of the county.

"I think all of us are aware of the dangers of a loaded firearm in a vehicle," said state Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena), who wrote SB 1171 at Baca's request.

Scott noted that loaded guns in vehicles within city limits are already illegal.

"This will simply close that loophole," Scott said.

The Senate also approved an amended bill supported by Los Angeles officials to deal with the proliferation of bandit taxicabs, which have been known to operate without safety inspections, insurance and proper driver certification.

"They are a tremendous danger to many of our urban areas," said state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), the author of SB 1519.

The legislation would allow cities to fine bandit taxi operators up to $5,000 and disconnect their telephone service when other sanctions do not work.

The legislation was supported by several permitted taxicab companies that have lost business to the bandit cabs.

"Scofflaws may ignore local taxicab licenses and regulations, but when their phone lines go down, they'll lose their main source of business," Yee said.

Los Angeles officials have estimated that there are about 2,000 bandit taxi drivers operating in the city. Last year the city launched a crackdown that resulted in more than 650 arrests.

The Senate also acted to provide some relief to drivers in Riverside County on Tuesday by approving legislation that would give the county's transportation commission power to develop and operate toll lanes on the 91 Freeway.

Express lanes exist on the 91 in Orange County, but they end at the Riverside County line. The transportation commission would like to extend the existing facilities from the county line to Interstate 15, panel officials said.

The legislation, SB 1316 by Sen. Louis Correa (D-Santa Ana), was opposed by the Environmental Defense Fund. The group complained that the bill does not guarantee the use of toll revenue for mass transit.

Southern California hikers also got some help Tuesday when the Senate approved a bill that allows the owners of land in Elsmere Canyon to seek inclusion of that property within the boundaries of the Rim of the Valley Trail Corridor.

That would set the stage for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to spruce up the area. Work could include improvements to the fire road that crosses the canyon and serves as a link to a system of trails circling the San Fernando Valley, according to Joe Edmiston, director of the conservancy.

"The canyon is currently a doughnut hole in the middle of the corridor, and SB 1180 will close that hole," said state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), who carried the bill on behalf of the city of Santa Clarita.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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