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Fighting for Rural Views

Whenever I walk in or around the State Capitol as the new Assemblyman for our region, the first thing people notice about me is my ranch hat. For some Capitol folks – especially those from the big cities – seeing me and my hat for the first time was like seeing someone from another world.

It may be because their only prior knowledge of a ranch is one they might have seen on TV. But I don’t mind. I see such encounters as an opportunity to educate them about the issues facing smaller and rural communities in our state. As a rancher with family roots in the foothills dating back to the 1800’s, I know first-hand the challenges that local residents face.

The way I see it, my hat is a symbol of respect for California’s pioneers and our agricultural heritage. Given that most California legislators come from the big cities, it is important to educate them on the issues that especially affect our region.

For example, I am fighting to eliminate the state’s new fire fee (tax) on mostly rural homeowners. The Legislature and Governor Brown approved this $115 tax in an unwise attempt to address the state’s budget problems. While they claim this tax will support firefighting, it is misleading – as the Legislature took money once appropriated for rural firefighting away to pay for other government programs.

Thankfully, there is a delay in the collection of this tax. State officials say they are sorting through thousands of complaints challenging their new tax bills. My office has also received complaints from residents who said they were charged twice, a problem that seems to have occurred in several instances.

While the delay is good news, the problem with the fire tax is the tax itself. This tax – approved by big city politicians – is unfair and unnecessary. I support efforts to overturn it and find other ways to solve the state’s budget problems.

Another issue I am addressing is curbing livestock theft. Current law does not provide the necessary tools for prosecutors to stop repeat offenders. In the past decade, the value of live cattle and the price per pound of beef have increased over sixty percent. Unfortunately, livestock theft has also increased.

To help stop this, I have proposed Assembly Bill 924 to provide new tools for law enforcement. My measure would limit probation for repeat offenders, provide an option for prosecutors to increase penalties for a high value theft, and establish a fine of up to $5,000 for anyone convicted of this crime.

Fighting the fire tax and stopping livestock theft are just two of the many issues I am working on in Sacramento. Being a rancher, I know how important teamwork is to a ranch’s success. It will take teamwork to help make things right in Sacramento, and I hope you will stay up to date on the latest news on my state website. Together, we can make our state a better place to live.

Lifelong rancher and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, represents all or portions of Placer, El Dorado, Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Madera, Mariposa and Mono counties in the California Legislature