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The California assembly last week approved a bill aimed at easing rules governing needle-exchange programs operating in the state. Currently, each community that operates a needle-exchange program must declare a public health emergency every two weeks in order to keep operating the programs. The new bill would eliminate that requirement. Twelve California cities and counties currently operate needle-exchange programs, and officials from nine other regions in the state say they are interested in launching exchanges if the new bill becomes law. The bill now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "With a few strokes of the pen, the governor can save lives and end bureaucratic waste all at the same time," bill sponsor Patty Berg told the Eureka Times-Standard. "AIDS is a crisis that doesn't go away every two weeks. We need to use every tool to stop its spread." Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the measure.