California Controversies: The Oil Train, Asset Seizure, Vaccinations

Happy March, everybody. Two months into 2015 and things are getting heated here in the Golden State. Here are three statewide issues to keep on your radar:

Phillips 66 Oil Trains


Phillips 66 has an crude oil refinery in San Luis Obispo. Currently the station gets most of its crude oil pumped to it via pipeline, largely out of Santa Barbara, but this could soon change as the company has been pushing a proposal to install a rail spur nearby that would allow trains to deliver crude oil directly to the station. This means that roughly 250 trains would arrive every year, delivering  approximately 20,000 tank cars of crude oil annually to the station.

Oil trains have been the subject of ongoing scrutiny around safety issues. This past February, an oil train carrying the newest model of tanker cars derailed in West Virginia, spilling oil and causing fires.

The decision lies with the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission whether to approve the proposal. Though outside their jurisdictions, a number of cities across California have sent letters urging planners to reject the plan.

Where do you stand on this proposal? Vote and comment on the oil train here.

Should Oil Be Transported By Train Through Monterey County?

The energy company Phillips 66 is pushing a proposal to connect its San Luis Obispo refinery to the Union Pacific Rail Line.


Asset Forfeiture


Last week State Assembly member Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) proposed a law that would change the rules around how law enforcement can seize property of suspected criminals. Currently, local authorities must file a petition of forfeiture and criminal charges at the same time. Under Alejo’s bill, AB 443, police forces would be able to seize property as long as there is a “substantial probability” that they will file criminal charges. Upon confiscating property, law enforcement would have 90 days to file charges. Any taken property would have to be valued at no less than $10,000.

Supporters argue that this will help law enforcement to cripple criminal operations, which oftentimes succeed in hiding their assets during criminal proceedings. However, this proposal comes at a time when asset seizure has become the subject of criticism. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced reforms to the Fed’s asset seizure program, citing abuses of the power.

Should California law enforcement have expanded powers to seize assets of suspected criminals? Vote and comment here.

AB 443 – Asset Forfeiture Law

Assemblymember Luis Alejo has put forward a proposal to change the state’s rules surrounding how law enforcement can seize property of suspected criminals.


California Vaccination Policy


This is a subject we’ve covered before but is worth bringing up again. You may have heard that California currently has one of the most lax policies around vaccinations. Parents may opt out of vaccinating their children not only for medical reasons but also due to religious reasons, as well as a simple personal belief that the practice is not necessary. The days of this practice may be numbered, however, as State Senator Richard Pan has introduced Senate Bill 277, a proposal that would do away with all vaccination exemptions aside from medical directives. He had originally signaled that he would keep religious belief, but apparently he’s taking the hard line.

Advocates of the proposal say that this is necessary to prevent massive outbreaks of disease, with the current measles scare showing a glimpse of what could possibly be a larger epidemic down the road. Opponents say that parents ought to have the choice to vaccinate their children, and that this proposal constitutes a massive overreach of government into personal lives.

What do you think? Vote and comment on the proposal here:

Should California end the “personal belief” vaccination exemption?

Ever since outbreak of measles in California, the state’s personal belief vaccination exemption has come under intense scrutiny.

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