11:39 PM PDT on Thursday, March 31, 2011

By JIM MILLER
Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – Legislators from Inland Southern California have introduced more than 200 bills this year, weighing in on subjects ranging from red-light cameras and the workplace to two-year budgets and aid for veterans.

California’s budget mess has dominated events at the Capitol for months. Starting Monday, though, many of the 2,200 measures lawmakers introduced this year will get their first airing.

Business-related bills are popular among the Inland region’s Republican-heavy delegation.

The proposals include employer-sought measures to change state law on meal and break periods, hours of work before overtime applies, and making more businesses eligible for hiring credits.

Other bills would change how government conducts its business. That includes letting American Indian tribes join joint-powers authorities and prohibiting the Legislature from convening before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

In addition, local lawmakers are bullish on law-and-order legislation. And transportation and housing remain popular topics in a region with a lot of traffic and far-flung homes.

Assemblyman Paul Cook, who spent several years on San Bernardino County’s transportation planning agency, has introduced a bill that would ban red-light traffic cameras as of Jan. 1.

Cook, R-Yucca Valley, said he always has been skeptical of the cameras. Lately, he has come to believe the cameras are more about generating revenue through steep fines than deterring traffic violations.

“In my district there are a lot of people who don’t like this intrusion,” he said.

The bill will get its first hearing April 13. Like past bills on the issue, it likely will face opposition from the camera manufacturers as well as government officials worried about the loss of revenue.

If nothing else, Cook said, he wants the bill to lead to limits on fines slapped on scofflaw motorists. “I think it’s getting out of hand,” he said.

IMMIGRATION

Republican legislation almost always faces an uphill climb in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

And then there are bills like AB 26 by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

The measure, modeled on Arizona’s tough illegal immigration law, would let authorities enforce federal immigration laws and also prohibit businesses from knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.

Monday, Donnelly and other supporters will rally at the Capitol, joined by Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of that state’s law. That will do nothing to help its chances Tuesday in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Some lawmakers’ bills, meanwhile, focus on far-flung issues.

Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, has introduced another bill targeting development around Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

The park, located in Tulare County, is more than 200 miles from Carter’s urban San Bernardino County district. It honors Allen Allensworth, a former slave and Civil War veteran who helped start the farming community about 30 miles north of Bakersfield in 1908.

Carter carried legislation in 2007 banning development within five miles of the park after plans emerged for a large dairy nearby. She later tabled the measure, a priority of the Legislative Black Caucus, after the Schwarzenegger administration stopped the dairy project.

Carter’s latest bill would prohibit development within two-and-a-half miles of Allensworth. Its first committee hearing is April 26.

Other lawmakers are still getting up to speed on the issues their bills attempt to address.

Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, acknowledged Thursday that he is “not a theater or arts kind of guy.”

Morrell, though, introduced legislation meant to clarify that community theaters can have child actors without violating child-labor laws. Several theaters have received citations, Morrell’s office said.

The deadline for bills to pass their house of origin is June 3. This year’s legislative session ends Sept. 9. Many bills will idle until 2012, the second half of the two-year session.

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