State Briefs

Friday September 20, 2002

Gov signs $9.95 billion bond bill to boost high-speed rail 

SACRAMENTO — With antique locomotives as a backdrop, Gov. Gray Davis signed a $9.95 billion bond measure Thursday that would clear the way to let voters determine if there will be a high-speed rail system linking California’s major cities. 

“We have a 21st century economy, but we need a 21st century transportation system to keep us on track,” Davis said at a ceremony at the state’s railroad museum. “This launches a new era of transportation in this state.” 

The bill, by state Sen. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, would authorize the state to borrow $9.95 billion through the sale of bonds to start building a 700-mile system with trains running at top speeds of more than 200 mph. 

Davis’ signature puts the measure on the November 2004 ballot for voters to decide. 

Holocaust education,  

recovery bills signed into law 

SACRAMENTO — Survivors and heirs of the Nazi Holocaust will get more time to reclaim property stolen from them before and during the Second World War, under one of the three Holocaust bills signed Thursday. 

Gov. Gray Davis called aiding Holocaust victims “a moral imperative” as he signed the three measures. An estimated 14,000 to 20,000 survivors live in California, but supporters said the bills will provide a model nationwide. 

The first bill extends the statute of limitations until 2010 for lawsuits brought by Holocaust survivors or their heirs to recover artwork stolen from them and now housed in museums or galleries. 

The rightful owners often need extra time for research, said the author, Assemblyman George Nakano, D-Torrance. He said some of the artwork has since made its way to California. 

The second bars using Holocaust restitution payments and any related payments received after January 1, 2000, from being used to calculate a survivor or heir’s income tax or their financial need calculations for Medi-Cal, public assistance, disability, and educational benefits. 

It brings state law in line with federal law adopted last year and could help hundreds of survivors and their heirs, said the author, Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Alameda. 

The third encourages teaching of Holocaust history to school children, as well as recording the histories of the aging survivors. 

Quieter off-highway  

vehicles coming  

SACRAMENTO — California will go from permitting among the noisiest off-road vehicles in the nation to requiring that they be among the quietest, the California Department of Parks and Recreation said Thursday. 

The department said a law effective Jan. 1 “represents the most sweeping reform of California’s off-highway vehicle program in its 30-year history.” 

The bill negotiated between environmental and off-road organizations protects the goals of both groups, Gov. Gray Davis said in signing the measure last week. 

It brings the state’s noise restrictions in line with federal standards for manufacturers, dropping the maximum decibel level from 101 to 96. 

It requires that gas taxes paid by owners of non-registered off-highway vehicles — about $21 million a year — go to conservation, repairing off-road damage, and law enforcement. And it channels 100 percent of money from off-highway vehicle fines and forfeitures to local law enforcement instead of giving the state half the money. 

It also requires the department to develop a voluntary off-highway vehicle safety program by 2005. And it requires the department to concentrate new land acquisition efforts for off-highway vehicle areas on locations that are not controversial and thus have a better chance of being approved. 

The law included recommendations developed over 18 months by a group organized by the department to represent interests on all sides of the debate.