Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Bumps in the road to House immigration agreement

Congressman Xavier Becerra

Kitty Felde

"Gang of Eight" member Xavier Becerra (D-LA) insists House immigration deal is not dead

The U.S. Senate continued to debate amendments to a comprehensive immigration bill Tuesday. Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans are grumbling that Democratic leadership is throwing up roadblocks to the deal hammered out by the bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the "Gang of Eight." Some suggest Democrats would rather take the Senate version than the compromise reached in the House.

According to a report in Politico, Democratic leaders don't like language in the House bill that requires the 11 million immigrants on the path to citizenship to pay for their own health care.

Minority Whip Stenny Hoyer told reporters that if the House "Gang of Eight" doesn't have a bill, then the Senate's measure "ought to be considered." The number three House Democrat, L.A.'s Xavier Becerra — one of those "Gang of Eight" members — brushes off that scenario: "We're on the precipice of getting to do something really good." 

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Democrats push back on House student loan bill

Congressman Mark Takano

Kitty Felde

Former high school teacher and Riverside Congressman Mark Takano objects to GOP student loan bill

The interest rates on federal student loans are set to double at the end of June.  The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on a measure that ties those loans to the price the government pays to borrow money. But Democrats say that's still too expensive.

The Republican bill links interest rates on federal student loans to the rates for a 10-year Treasury note and tacks on a  two-and-a-half percent fee. That means federal student loans would be about four-and-a-half percent — about one point above the current borrowing rate. 

But, if Congress fails to pass a student loan bill by the end of June, the current interest rate automatically doubles to nearly seven percent in July.

Freshman Democratic Congressman Mark Takano of Riverside — a longtime educator and community college trustee — notes the GOP bill would cap federal student loans at eight-and-a-half percent.  "The Republicans are proposing basically a variable interest rate," Takano said. "So their plan is worse than doing nothing." 

Democrats complain the bill is coming to the floor for a vote without a hearing. 

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Maven's Morning Coffee: It's Election Day in Los Angeles

A voter fills out her ballot during early voting before the 2012 presidential election at the Gila County Recorder's Office in Globe, Ariz., on Oct. 26.

Joshua Lott/Reuters/Landov

It's Election Day in Los Angeles. The polls are open until 8 p.m.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, public meetings and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Tuesday, May 21, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:

Headlines

It's Election Day. Check out KPCC's voter guide for details on the ballot.

Older, whiter voters are likely to decide today's election, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Latinos, the city's dominant ethnic group and a key voting bloc, make up 44 percent of the city's population, U.S. Census figures show. But a USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll of likely voters last week suggests Latinos will make up 24 percent of those who cast ballots Tuesday, in part because many are immigrants who are ineligible to vote," according to The Times.

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Senate committee to take up family visa issue

The policy over the issuing of visas is a key component of new immigration laws that are being debated in Congress.

The Senate Judiciary Committee continues debating more than 300 amendments to a comprehensive immigration bill. One big issue is still to come: the sticky topic of family visas.

Currently, about two-thirds of legal immigrants are family members of legal U.S. residents.

The Senate bill makes employment visas a higher priority and creates a point system making it more difficult to obtain family visas. It would completely eliminate sibling visas 18 months after the bill's passage. There would be no visas offered to children who are married and over the age of 31.

Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono has introduced several amendments to ease family visa restrictions. They are expected to be taken up Tuesday or Wednesday. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont says the committee could finish its work on amendments by the end of the week.

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California Senate passes bill to clear up state laws on medical pot

Medical Marijuana

Bear Guerra/KPCC

Cody Blake, an employee at Perennial Holisitic Wellness Center in Studio City, displays one of the dispensary's popular marijuana strains. The state legislature is seeking to put current guidelines for dispensaries into law.

California’s Senate passed a bill Monday that would shield pot collectives and their employees from prosecution for possession or sale of medical marijuana.

"We want to create more certainty where little or none exists now," said Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who wrote the bill.  Steinberg hoped it  would at least provide “a vehicle for some sort of understanding with the federal government.”

The federal government does not recognize state laws that allow the sale or possession of medical marijuana. The U.S. Justice Department periodically targets clinics, especially those it believes are operating as commercial businesses. 

Senate Bill 439 would put into statute a set of guidelines California’s Attorney General issued in 2008 that defines the kind of operations allowed under Prop 215 — California’s Compassionate Use Act.

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