L.A. County Emergency Radio Project Rescued by Law to Save $270M in Federal Funding

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Assembly Bill 946 gives Los Angeles County a do-over on contracts for the emergency radio system after the originals were discarded for being improperly drafted.

With the memory of San Diego County’s recent blackout still fresh in the minds of many  Southern Californians, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB946. The new law will provide funding for Los Angeles County to build a regional radio system so first-responders can coordinate their efforts during a disaster. Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, the Legislature’s point-person on emergency management, wrote the bill which earmarks $270 million in federal grants for a first-responder emergency radio system.

“There were about a quarter billion reasons for the governor to sign this bill, and I’m glad he did,” said Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who wrote the new law. 

Assembly Bill 946, which, as an urgency measure took effect the moment the governor signed it, essentially gives Los Angeles County a do-over on the contracts for the massive new system. The original agreements had to be tossed out after attorneys conceded they were improperly drafted.

In response, Lowenthal whisked AB 946 through a process that can take all year in just a matter of weeks.

“There was no way we were giving up a great public safety tool just because someone forgot to dot their i’s or cross their t’s,” said Lowenthal, who chairs the Joint Committee on Emergency Management.

If Assembly Bill 946 had not passed, county officials would likely have missed the federal deadline to begin construction of the dedicated radio network that will link the region’s 34,000 first-responders spread among 50 public safety agencies.

“This puts us in a much better position,” said Patrick Mallon, executive director of LA-RICS, the joint-powers authority tasked with building the system. “It vastly enhances our ability to fully utilize the grant funds.”

Initial efforts to build the federally funded system came to a halt recently when the county’s own lawyers conceded they had failed to fully comply with state contract laws in the way they had written their plans. Lowenthal’s bill clarified existing law, and specifically authorized the county to move forward on the project. The Legislature approved the bill without logging a single vote against it.

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