SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A bill that would have stiffened the criminal penalties that animal-rights extremist faced for attacking livestock facilities has died in a legislative committee.

Assembly Bill 2177, which would have assigned a prison term of up to seven years for bombing or committing arson on a beef feedlot or other facility, was defeated May 25 in the chamber's Appropriations Committee, the California Cattlemen's Association reported.

The CCA vowed in a legislative newsletter to push for the bill to be introduced again next year.

The proposal by Assemblyman David Valadao, R-Hanford, came in response to a Jan. 8 arson attack at the state's largest beef producer. The fire destroyed 14 big-rig tractors and several trailers at Harris Ranch near Coalinga, causing a loss of more than $2 million.

Under the bill, the felony charge could have been added to felony arson or aggravated arson charges, which include penalties of up to 10 years or life in prison.

However, a bill analysis written for the Appropriations Committee questioned the need for the bill, stating "current law appears to offer sufficient penalties for arson and explosive devices, and the statute to which this bill would add is rarely used."

Analyst Geoff Long wrote the penalty could serve as a second or third strike under the state's three-strikes law, which could increase incarceration costs later.

The Appropriations Committee also killed legislation by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, that would have expanded an allowance for common three-quarter-ton, 1-ton and flatbed pickups used to haul standard gooseneck livestock trailers, according to the cattle organization.

Assembly Bill 1516 could have cost the state millions of dollars in lost federal transportation funds if it was found to conflict with U.S. transportation requirements, a bill analysis for the committee asserted.

- Tim Hearden

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