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June 15, 2010

Gold Miners Shafted by Democrats in the State Assembly

Aanestad Refund Measure Hijacked With Hostile Amendment

SACRAMENTO: Legislation designed to provide full permit refunds to all Suction Dredge Miners in California has been hijacked in an Assembly policy committee. SB 889 – authored by Senator Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) – would have given miners the opportunity to apply for and receive a full refund of the $47.00 permit fee they paid last year for the right to ply the trade of suction dredge mining on California streams and rivers.

But the measure – which Senator Aanestad introduced last year after the State Legislature took emergency action to ban the mining practice – was hijacked this morning in the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. Committee Democrats rejected the notion of a full refund and instead hijacked the bill against Senator Aanestad’s wishes. They amended SB 889 to provide a refund of two-thirds of the original fee instead of the full amount.

“This committee is all over the map in suggesting what portion of the mining fee should be refunded – and it’s really just arbitrary,” said a frustrated Senator Aanestad during today’s hearing. “The only real fair number here is 100% of the $47.00 fee – and if you’re going to hold your vote for some arbitrary number that you’ve pulled out of thin air – you’re answerable to the people who elected you to office.”

Although the measure did pass with the hostile amendment attached – Senator Aanestad says he is unsure if he will continue to pursue the matter until he speaks with all stakeholders involved – including the mining organizations who sponsored SB 889. He notes that a Los Angeles small claims court (Wegner v. Koch et. al.) has already ruled in favor of full refunds for California gold miners. In that case, the court found for the plaintiff and ordered the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to refund the miner’s permit fee of $47.00 and pay court costs of $32.50. In addition to the cost of the judgment, the DFG and the California Attorney General's office incurred legal expenses associated with the claim.

“The courts have already ruled in favor of a full refund – and given the outcome of today’s committee hearing – additional claims against the state are almost guaranteed,” said Senator Aanestad. “That means additional costs to state taxpayers – possibly in the millions of dollars – because Democrats refuse to take the fair and right action.”

Nearly 4,000 suction dredge mining permits were purchased last year according to the DFG – and more than 3,000 of the permits were purchased by California residents alone.  The cost of a permit for California residents is $47.00, and for out of state miners the permit fee is $185.25.  In 2009, the Department collected about $250,000 from miners who were subsequently denied the right to mine.

The ban on suction dredge mining took place in early August of last year, following the successful passage of SB 670. It represented a $60 million hit to the Northern California economy where suction dredge mining was the most popular and profitable for miners.

“My hope is that every miner who paid this fee calls their legislator today to explain to them what the definition of fairness is,” said Senator Aanestad. “Some legislators clearly need a reminder.”

RADIO STATIONS: .mp3 file format sound from today’s hearing – plus suggested script information – to follow.


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              Page Updated: Saturday June 19, 2010 01:53 AM  Pacific

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