Bills to free up carpool lanes and protect small businesses head to Gov. Brown

The often congested 405 freeway.
The often congested 405 freeway.
Eyeshotpictures/Flickr/Creative Commons

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) has authored three bills on the way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. One would free up carpool lanes to all commuters during non-peak hours.

If signed, AB 405 would establish a pilot program on freeways such as the 210 and 134, in addition to any others that Caltrans deems appropriate. The program would be in effect from Jan. 1, 2014 to May 21, 2015.

“The sooner we can get this relief to Southern Californians, the better,” said Gatto. “The point of carpool lanes was to reward people who share a ride during rush hour. The point was not just to take a lane away at all the other hours during the day.”

The bill was inspired by a similar program in Northern California, where carpool lanes are carpool lanes between 6 and 10 a.m. and then again between 4 and 7 p.m.

Caltrans, which oversees California freeways, is tasked with figuring out the details for this program if the governor chooses to sign it. The state Senate unanimously approved AB 405 earlier this week.

But, not everyone supports the bill.

“Carpool lanes can promote two things: one, most importantly, carpooling. Anyone who lives in L.A. knows that we need to do everything that we can to get people to carpool,” said Adrian Martinez, a staff attorney in the Los Angeles offices of Earthjustice, on AirTalk Wednesday.

A similar program is already in effect on Antelope Valley’s SR–14 freeway.

The second bill approved by the state Assembly is AB 184, which would double the statute of limitations for hit-and-run accidents from three to six years.

“Police have indicated that if they only had a little bit more time to catch these perpetrators, they could solve a lot more of these crimes,” Gatto said.

The third bill, unanimously approved Tuesday by the state Assembly, is intended to protect small businesses from lawsuits by reforming Proposition 65, which requires businesses to put up signage declaring possible exposure to major carcinogens.

“For whatever reason, there are these attorneys who are preying on small business owners,” Gatto said. Those attorneys have sued these businesses for “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for things such as a wrong-sized sign or one that that doesn’t cover enough products listed under Proposition 65.

AB 227, which is the first bill to substantively amend Proposition 65, would give business owners a 14-day fix-it ticket for violations of common substances covered in the proposition, such as alcohol or those that naturally occur when grilling food.