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Florez measures fall in silence

Democratic Sen. Dean Florez and Democratic Assemblywoman Nicole Parra have overlapping districts in the southern San Joaquin Valley and have been engaged in a bitter political feud for years, one that has involved other members of both legislators' families as well.

Florez was on the receiving end today when he took three of his most important bills dealing with food safety, which had all been approved by the Senate, into the Assembly Agriculture Committee, which Parra chairs. All three of the bills, supported by consumer groups and opposed by all major agricultural organizations, were held in committee without so much as a do-pass motion.

The measures were sparked by outbreaks of E. coli contamination in "leafy green" vegetables such as lettuce. The centerpiece measure, Senate Bill 201, would have established strict sanitation requirements for growing and transporting the vegetables.

Lobbyists for growers said they already are introducing new safety procedures but Florez and his allies said that the state should enforce them, rather than leave them to the industry.

It was not the first time the two had clashed over farm-related issues, with Parra generally supporting the ag industry. Florez has accused Parra of sidetracking his measure to regulate the dairy industry, for instance. But the feud is more personal than ideological, stemming from a long-time rivalry between Florez and Parra's father, former Kern County Supervisor Pete Parra. Nicole Parra is considered to be a potential candidate for Florez's Senate seat if and when he is forced out of the Legislature by term limits but he's said he may persuade his mother to run for his seat as a substitute.

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