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Gray Introduces Legislation to Strengthen California’s Firefighting Mutual Aid System

ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM C. GRAY
21ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
For Immediate Release: February 21, 2020
Contact: Adam Capper
Phone: (916) 319-2021

 

Gray Introduces Legislation to Strengthen California’s Firefighting Mutual Aid System

 

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) has introduced Assembly Bill 3198 to establish a grant program for local fire departments participating in California’s firefighting mutual aid system.

For nearly seven decades, fire departments have been part of a “neighbor helping neighbor” system of mutual aid.  Under the California Fire Service and Rescue Emergency Mutual Aid System, local jurisdictions experiencing an emergency incident likely to exceed, or has exceeded, their ability to control it may request the outside assistance of other jurisdictions.

“Unprecedented wildfires have undoubtedly strained California’s firefighting mutual aid system and we are all too familiar with reports of mutual aid requests for fire suppression going unfilled due to lack of available resources,” said Assemblymember Gray. “It is time to ensure local fire departments have the mutual aid resources they need to quickly deploy at the onset of an emergency incident.”

“As Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, I listened to fire officials from across the state communicate their frustrations with mutual aid as we know it this past month,” said Assemblymember Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita). “Through their testimony, it was clear this system we’ve relied on for decades requires significant updates to accommodate resource shortfalls and more pernicious fires. I commend my colleague Assemblymember Adam Gray for recognizing the urgency in supporting our brave firefighters and first responders in their important, lifesaving work.”

“The Administration and the Legislature have been very proactive in addressing the challenges posed by these catastrophic wildfires,” continued Assemblymember Gray. “Working together, we have made significant progress in deploying technology to detect fires earlier, prioritizing mitigation work, prepositioning resources during extreme weather, and establishing a Wildfire Threat Center to improve forecasts and enhance alerts and warnings.  This grant program will be an additional tool for our first responders to keep Californians safe during any type of disaster.”

Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Chair of the Senate Government Organization Committee, and Assemblymember Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, are coauthoring the bill.   

“In the weeks ahead, I look forward to working with the fire service, local governments, the Administration and my colleagues in the Legislature to refine this proposal to craft a grant program that best meets the needs of the firefighting mutual aid system,” concluded Assemblymember Gray.

 

Gray's Fair Funding Bill Pays Off for Local Fairgrounds

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Danielle Griffin | (559) 967-3604

Merced County Fair Selected For Facility Improvement Project

State funds designated to improve California fairgrounds for overall operations and

use as emergency response sites

MERCED, CALIFORNIA, February 4, 2020 – The Merced County Fair is proud to announce it has been selected by the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) Fairs & Expositions Branch to receive funding from the State’s $3 million of general fund monies allocated through the Budget Act of 2018, Control Section 6.10. The Merced County Fair is set to receive $798,950 to install a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system in the fair’s Pavilion building.

 

“This truly is a game changer for our fairgrounds,” said Teresa Burrola, CEO of the Merced County Fair. “Currently the Pavilion building only has evaporative cooling, which is inadequate during the hot summer months here in the Central Valley. Due to that, we’ve seen a decrease in rentals of this building during that time, which hurts us financially as year round rentals sustain operations outside our annual fair.”

 

The project selection comes after the fair submitted five projects for consideration as part of the Facility Condition Assessment of California fairgrounds. Out of 74 fairgrounds in California, there were 64 fairgrounds that submitted projects; only 12 projects were selected for the first round of funding. All projects will be overseen and managed by the California Construction Authority (CCA) or the Department of General Services (DGS) and must be completed by March 2022.

 

In 2017, Assemblyman Adam Gray authored Assembly Bill 1499, which enabled the creation of these funds through a percentage of the sales tax revenue generated on fair properties within the State. “We can’t express our gratitude enough for Assemblyman Gray’s championing of these funds that are critical to the longevity of fairgrounds that serve their communities in so many ways,” said Burrola.

 

Gray Introduces Legislation to Repeal the Ticket Tax

ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM C. GRAY
21ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
For Immediate Release: January 24, 2020
Contact: Adam Capper
Phone: (916) 319-2021

Gray Introduces Legislation to Repeal the Ticket Tax

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) released the following statement upon introducing Assembly Bill 1980 to repeal the automatic 20% tax on traffic tickets imposed by the state:

“During a time of fiscal uncertainty nearly two decades ago, the state imposed a 20% tax on traffic tickets and devoted the funding to prop up the General Fund. At the time, the state promised this was a temporary measure, but to the surprise of no one eventually made the tax permanent just a few years later.

“The State Auditor has repeatedly recommended this tax be eliminated. The revenue does not support law enforcement or any specific public safety program. Instead, the funds are up for grabs every year to spend with no accountability to the public. This tax amounts to nearly $40 million per year stolen from taxpayers without explanation.

“I introduced a similar bill last year in partnership with Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse who knows this tax has nothing to do with improving safety on our roads. We received the support of law enforcement groups like the Peace Officers’ Research Association and criminal justice groups like Restore Justice and the ACLU.

“All sides agree this tax is unjust, indefensible, and long overdue for repeal.

“This year we will redouble our efforts, and with Governor Newsom indicating his support for reforms like this in the budget, I am confident we will succeed.”

California lawmaker demands probe of PG&E's chief regulator

Michael Liedtke, Ap Business Writer

Updated 1:36 pm PST, Wednesday, January 15, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A state lawmaker on Wednesday demanded an extensive review of the California Public Utilities Commission to determine whether regulators’ lax oversight enabled neglect at Pacific Gas & Electric that triggered catastrophic wildfires, a messy bankruptcy and exasperating blackouts.

The request by Assemblyman Adam Gray could turn up the heat on the commission as it prepares to play a key role in determining PG&E's future.

The nation's largest utility has submitted a rehabilitation plan that must be approved by the commission and a federal bankruptcy judge by June 30 to qualify for coverage from a special fund state lawmakers created to help insulate California utilities from massive losses if their power lines ignite more devastating fires.

PG&E landed in bankruptcy nearly a year ago after a series of wildfires blamed on the utility in 2017 and 2018 killed nearly 130 people and destroyed nearly 28,000 homes, raising the specter that it might be asked to pay more than $50 billion in claimed losses.

Gray, a Democrat from Merced, thinks it's time for his fellow lawmakers to assign the state auditor to dig deeper into the commission and analyze “what went wrong” at an agency that can sometimes seem arcane to the millions of Californians who depend on it to set the prices they pay for electricity and natural gas.

PG&E deserves plenty of blame for neglecting to upgrade its power system during the past decade as climate change increased wildfire risks, but “government incompetence is also part of the story,” Gray said in a statement. He asserted the commission “knew about the decaying and outdated condition of PG&E's infrastructure, yet they failed to act.”

The commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Assemblymember Gray Seeks Audit of State Regulator’s Failure to Prevent Utility Wildfires

ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM C. GRAY
21ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
For Immediate Release: January 15, 2020
Contact: Adam Capper
Phone: (916) 319-2021

 

Assemblymember Gray Seeks Audit of State Regulator’s Failure to Prevent Utility Wildfires

 

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) has submitted a request to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee seeking a state audit of the California Public Utilities Commission. As the state’s primary entity tasked with the regulation of public utilities, Gray’s audit letter seeks information about the commission’s role in PG&E’s inadequate and dangerous management of its power lines which sparked some of the most destructive wildfires in California history.

“A lot of the conversation around utilities and wildfires has focused on shareholders and executives at PG&E placing their own profits over the public’s safety,” said Gray. “That criticism is well deserved. Shareholders are just now realizing it would have cost a lot less to make responsible safety improvements over time rather than go through bankruptcy with multi-billion dollar settlements.

“However, government incompetence is also part of the story. The CPUC regulates public utilities and knew about the decaying and outdated condition of PG&E’s infrastructure, yet they failed to act. Instead, the commission often denied what little safety improvements were proposed by the utility.

“Many have pointed to climate change to explain the dangerous conditions which allowed recent wildfires to grow so quickly and burn so intensely. Ironically, the CPUC has been at the center of the state’s fight against climate change since the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Instead of raising the alarm that climate change will make dangerous wildfire conditions more common, the commission has pushed its Safety and Enforcement Division to the bottom of the priority list.

“I am asking the State Auditor to provide an independent and nonpartisan analysis of what went wrong at the CPUC. Why was public safety not a priority for the commission, and why were grid improvements like burying power lines in fire prone areas not approved? Despite playing a central role in helping California adapt to climate change in other areas, why was the CPUC asleep at the wheel on the risk of utility caused wildfires?

"The state has promised not to allow these tragedies to happen again. In order to fulfill that promise, we need answers to these questions. If the CPUC is not capable of ensuring the public's safety, then it is time we figure out a new way to regulate public utilities so that homes, businesses, and families come first."

Gray’s audit request will be voted on by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee at a hearing scheduled for February 19th.

Modesto Projects Become Recipients of Region’s Biggest Ever EDA Grant

   

  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

  DATE: 10/1/2019    

  Contact: Amber Edwards, Director of Marketing and Communications

                  209.422.6421, aedwards@opportunitystanislaus.com

Modesto Projects Become Recipients of Region’s Biggest Ever EDA Grant

 

Modesto, CA– Students at two Stanislaus County schools will be training on cutting-edge equipment, thanks to a grant of nearly one million dollars received from the Economic Development Administration, a bureau within the United States Department of Commerce. The training is expected to save 453 jobs while creating at least 20 new positions.

 

The funding, allocated to VOLT Institute and Modesto Junior College (MJC), will be used for the purchase of equipment on par with machines used in industrial settings at local employers. David White, Chief Executive Officer of Opportunity Stanislaus, the organization responsible for conceptualizing VOLT Institute, knows the importance of high-tech equipment in the classroom. “The feedback we keep getting from employers is that our program is solid but that having equipment in the classroom similar to the machines students will be using in the field after graduation is essential to their success,” said White. “We are launching PLC training in our next class starting in October and this will allow us to add coursework from the nationally-recognized NIMS system to our offerings. We are especially excited to offer Amatrol’s popular mechatronics course.”

 

For its part Modesto Junior College, a trailblazer in creating career pathways that lead to local jobs, will be adding equipment that complements its Career Technical Education programs with partner high schools. “We are happy to work with Opportunity Stanislaus, the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE), and local employers. This grant helps build a pipeline for local residents to gain technical skills and advance their careers through additional training and education,” remarked Modesto Junior College President Dr. James Houpis.

 

The grant required match funding, a hurdle overcome by Assemblymember Adam C. Gray’s work to get a million dollars for VOLT Institute and MJC allocated in the 2018-19 California State Budget. Of making the project a priority Gray said, “We have a significant shortage of workers with the real skills necessary to get these good-paying jobs. We are encouraged that VOLT and MJC were able to use this state money to assemble a total of $2 million from federal and state grants to train an additional 200 students annually by expanding its certified industrial maintenance program and the industrial electronics, manufacturing, and machine program.”

 

Gray is not the only legislator associated with support for the project. Congressman Josh Harder has made his support for technical training and VOLT Institute in particular known since taking office, attending several of the school’s events and calling training in key areas a matter of statewide importance. “This is huge news – we’ve got all these talented people in the Valley who want good-paying jobs close to home, but they don’t always have the skills or experience they need to fill them,” said Representative Harder. “VOLT has already proven they can step in to fix this problem, and now they’re going to have even more capacity to get people prepped and into a good career. It’s good for businesses looking to hire, it’s great for workers, and it’s one more way we can signal to employers outside of our area that we have a highly-skilled workforce ready to get the job done.”

 

VOLT Institute is a partnership between Opportunity Stanislaus, the county’s economic development organization that is committed to improving economic vitality in the region, and SCOE. Opportunity Stanislaus, SCOE, and Modesto Junior College have collaborated for the last year in a combined effort to build the best collaborative advanced manufacturing training program in California. This new grant will help strengthen the joint effort. SCOE Superintendent Scott Kuykendall was ecstatic upon hearing the news of the grant award. “We are excited to add to VOLT Institute these exciting new programs,” remarked Kuykendall. “The Tom Changnon Education Center is fast becoming a center of excellence for vocational training.”

 

EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the application’s merit, the applicant’s eligibility, and the availability of funds. Because of the matching requirements and arduous application, the region has only ever received one such award of just over $140,000, allotted in 2010 to the City of Riverbank. But White hopes the award is the first of many for the county’s workforce development efforts. “We are committed to providing high-quality jobs and that starts with an emphasis on top-notch training. Enthusiasm and ideas for continuous improvement are not in short supply and this encourages us that funding is not either.” Warren Kirk, CEO of Doctors Medical Center and Chairman of the Board for Opportunity Stanislaus added, “This federal grant is a great example of what our region can accomplish when we work together in support of economic development.”