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‘Only in California’ bills dot Capitol landscape

If various members of the California Legislature had their way this year,
there would be much stiffer penalties for a vampire drinking merlot while
holding a can of paint in the trunk of a car that is smashing bird nests in
a park.

It’s not as outlandish as it sounds.

Legislators of both parties have introduced a flurry of bills to beat the
Feb. 24 deadline for new legislation. And the aims of some of those bills
are downright goofy.

State Sen. Carole Migden, the San Francisco Democrat, has authored a bill to
make Zinfandel the official state wine. Migden’s staff says the Zinfandel
grape has a long history in the state and that its adaptability to different
taste palates and versatility with different types of food merit the
distinction.

“The response has been animated, lively and terrific from the wine
industry,” says Migden, a nondrinker, whose district reaches into the
southern Sonoma County. When asked why Zinfandel over other varietals,
Migden says, “If you say tomato, and they say tomahto, it’s all good on
pizza.”

Migden’s bill would hardly be the first to single out a state symbol.
California already has an official animal, bird, color, dance, fife and drum
corps, fish, flag, flower, folk dance, fossil, gemstone, insect, marine
fish, marine mammal, mineral, motto, nickname, poet laureate, prehistoric
artifact and more.

But in terms of singling out things for recognition, Democratic Sen. Elaine
Alquist takes the cake.

On Jan. 19, the San Jose Democrat introduced a whooping 13 Senate
resolutions to do everything from honor Girl Scouts to create a Lymphedema
Awareness Day.

Those 13 concurrent resolutions–plus another six in the past year–bring
Alquist to a grand total of 19 resolutions, good for tops in the Senate and
just short of one-fifth of all the concurrent resolutions introduced by the
entire house this session.

“Yes Sen. Alquist is honoring a lot of people,” admits an Alquist
spokeswoman. But she says the resolutions are a “significant yet inexpensive
way to recognize significant events in America’s history and to bring
attention to important health issues.”

The month of May is particularly popular for Alquist. She has introduced
measures to declare it as Arthritis Awareness Month, Asthma Awareness Month,
Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, Older Americans Month
and American Stroke Month.

The Senate has already passed out four of the Alquist month-of-May
resolutions without dissent.

While she was at it, she introduced a measure to have May 10, 2006, become
the Day of the Teacher.

Across the aisle and the rotunda, Republican Assemblyman Bill Maze of
Visalia has introduced a measure to make it a misdemeanor to possess paint
in any public park.

Existing law makes it a crime to scrawl graffiti or deface public or private
property, but Maze’s bill would make it illegal to simply possess paint–in a
spray can or a bucket.

First time violators would be subject to fines up to $500 and community
service, while second time paint-toting scofflaws would face community
service and up to a $1000 penalty.

Fellow Assembly Republican Dennis Mountjoy of Monrovia also has introduced a
bill to create a new misdemeanor crime: knowingly driving with someone in
your trunk. The act is currently an infraction.

“Republicans ought to look in the mirror before they start attacking
Democrats for what they consider intrusive legislation,” said Steve
Maviglio, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu


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