Politics

Here are some of the bills state lawmakers approved Tuesday

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

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California lawmakers churned through more than a hundred bills Tuesday as they worked to meet Wednesday’s midnight end-of-session deadline.

The Senate unanimously approved a bill that would end the statute of limitations for rape and child molestation. The bill came after several of actor Bill Cosby’s accusers were prevented from bringing their cases forward.

The Senate also approved a bill that backers hope will make it easier for California State University students to graduate on time. It would create a program to let CSU campuses enter into contracts with students. The schools would promise to provide Bachelor’s degrees to incoming freshmen within four years, or transfer students within two years.

The Assembly voted to give diaper vouchers worth $50 per month to California parents on welfare, starting in 2020.

It also approved a bill that seeks to prevent the sexual assault of janitors – especially female immigrants. It’s in response to the PBS documentary “Rape on the Night Shift.”

The Assembly voted to ban state contracts of $100,000 or more with companies that illegally discriminate against sovereign nations. That bill is specifically aimed at boycotts against Israel.

These bills now all move to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. He’ll have a month to decide whether to sign them.

Rape statute of limitations bill clears Senate

Gov. Jerry Brown will decide whether to eliminate California’s 10-year time limit to bring rape and child molestation charges after several women were precluded from bringing cases against actor Bill Cosby.

A measure the Senate approved unanimously Tuesday evening would apply only to crimes committed in the future. It would not allow Cosby’s accusers to seek prosecution for sexual assault they say he committed decades ago.

Cosby has repeatedly denied the allegations made by dozens of women around the country.

Democratic Sen. Connie Leyva of Chino says victims should always have the opportunity to seek justice after such violent acts.

Civil rights groups and public offenders opposed SB813, saying the bill does not address the root causes of victims failing to report sex crimes.

— Associated Press

Bill allowing more parents to take job-protected time off from work passes Legislature

More new parents in California would be able to take job-protected time off from work - while keeping their health insurance - under a bill that cleared a crucial vote in the Legislature Tuesday evening.

The measure would let workers at companies that employ 20 or more people take up to six weeks off, down from the current 50-employee law.

The bill went through a dramatic series of vote changes as it passed the Assembly.

When the roll call was first opened, 35 votes popped up. Then, the roll was held open for several minutes - an uncharacteristically long length of time.

Vote by vote, the ‘ayes’ gradually trickled in. And it eventually cleared passage with 44 votes.

Then, even more astoundingly, after the vote had been closed, 10 Assembly members added their ‘yes’ votes on - which is allowed under Assembly rules as long as the overall bill result hasn’t changed. This vote-changing practice has drawn criticism in the past because it allows lawmakers to change their positions after a bill’s fate has been decided.

The Assembly members who originally did not vote and later changed their votes to ‘Aye’ are:

In the end, it passed with 54 votes.

The bill now returns to the Senate for a final vote.

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More safety equipment required for private pools

The California Legislature has voted to require more safety equipment at private swimming pools.

Democratic Assemblyman Kansen Chu authored the measure.

“Research shows that adults need the help and support of pool safety warning systems in keeping kids away from a pool unsupervised,” said Chu.

Under the bill, families who install a new pool or update an existing one would have to make sure it has at least two of seven specified safety features. They include pool covers, mesh fences, and alarms.

Current law requires pools to have one of those features.

The bill now moves to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.

Assembly passes measure requiring cost recovery for concealed carry permits

Cities and counties in California would need to recover costs for concealed carry permits, under a bill the Assembly sent to Governor Jerry Brown Tuesday.

The measure would raise permit prices, prompting a debate about good government versus backdoor gun control.

Current law caps the base fee a local government can charge at $100 a permit. The bill’s author, Sacramento Democrat Kevin McCarty, says that’s costing the county $250,000 a year.

“Whether it’s a building permit, a marriage license, or any type of service from a local government, you want to make sure you have a full cost recovery,” says McCarty.

Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez suggested an ulterior motive for the measure.

She says, “The author is annoyed and has been quoted in the press that his local sheriff hands out CCW permits like candy. That’s what this is about—pricing people out.”

The measure passed the Assembly with the minimum required votes.

Tighter drone regulation bills sent to governor

California lawmakers have sent two bills that would more tightly regulate drone use to Governor Jerry Brown.

When measures return from one chamber of the California Legislature to the other for a final approval vote known as “concurrence,” lawmakers typically tell their colleagues how their bills were amended in the other house.

Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto brought up his drone regulation measure that was changed without his permission.

“The Senate amendments, I kind of feel, took out half the bill. But this is a very important bill,” said Gatto.

His measure did win Assembly approval. It would require drone owners to buy liability insurance and that drones with GPS systems be geofenced to block operation within prohibited areas like airports and fire zones.

A second bill would grant civil immunity to first responders who damage or destroy hobbyist drones during firefighting or search-and-rescue operations. That measure passed the Senate.

Both bills now advance to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. But their fates are far from clear. Brown vetoed most drone bills that reached his desk last year, citing concerns that ranged from premature regulations to the creation of redundant new criminal violations.

Low-income and first-generation CSU students could receive priority registration if governor signs bill

Low-income and first-generation California State University students could get extra help toward graduating on time under a bill that’s won final approval in the state Legislature.

The measure would allow CSU campuses to enter into contracts with students that would provide priority registration and academic advising. In exchange, the students would be required to achieve a minimum GPA and keep an active course load.

Democratic Senator Steve Glazer says the bill would cost the state and CSU very little new money.

“What we have been trying to do with this legislation is create this focus on efficiency – without affecting quality, without affecting affordability, without affecting access,” says Glazer.

The contracts would guarantee that incoming freshmen could graduate with a Bachelor’s degree within four years, and transfer students within two years.

The measure passed the state Senate Tuesday without opposition. Governor Jerry Brown has until the end of next month to act on it.

Bills would ban smoking at colleges, parks

Lawmakers are asking Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to expand California’s ban on smoking in public places to include beaches, parks and college campuses.

Senators voted 26–10 to pass SB1333. It would make it an infraction to smoke cigars, cigarettes or electronic cigarettes at state parks and beaches, but exempt state-commissioned movies.

Lawmakers also passed a second Democratic proposal Tuesday, this one banning tobacco use on all California State University and community college campuses. AB1594 passed the Assembly 45–23.

Supporters aim to mitigate the harmful effects of nicotine and secondhand smoke.

Brown signed several smoking restrictions earlier this year. They include bills that raise the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, push for all charter schools to be tobacco free and expand workplaces that must be ban tobacco.

— AP

Lawmakers seek to curb workers’ comp fraud

California lawmakers are seeking to crack down on bad actors in the workers’ compensation system following a report that an estimated $1 billion has been embezzled from the state program.

Lawmakers passed a proposal to suspend hospitals, doctors and other medical practitioners from the system if they have been convicted of any wrongdoing related to health care fraud.

The Assembly voted 69–0 on Tuesday to send AB1244 to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Center for Investigative Reporting found that some doctors scam the system by performing unnecessary procedures.

State and federal prosecutors say in the report that gaps in state oversight compromise the system and that state agencies currently have little means to pressure care providers.

— AP

Lawmakers agree to let public use Capitol videos

Lawmakers are acquiescing to a judge’s order and agreeing to make video footage of their meetings available for public use.

The proposal would put Assembly videos in the public domain, allowing people to use film of floor debates and committee hearings for political or commercial purposes.

The Assembly passed AB884 in a 76–1 vote Tuesday, sending it to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The move comes two months after a federal judge ruled in favor of the Firearms Policy Coalition. It had sued to use lawmakers’ speeches supporting gun-control bills in campaign advertisements.

U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. in Sacramento issued a preliminary injunction barring Attorney General Kamala Harris from enforcing a law against using the videos.

Harris had argued releasing the videos could stifle debate or harm the legislative process.

— AP

Campaign finance bill fails in California Senate

California senators are rejecting a campaign finance disclosure bill after Republicans and the state’s political watchdog said it would weaken rather than strengthen transparency laws.

AB700 by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles would require independent political groups to disclose major contributors on their advertisements.

Republican Assemblyman Jeff Stone of Temecula says the bill has a loophole that benefits unions. And the Fair Political Practices Commission says recent changes would raise the standard for proving certain campaign finance violations, making it nearly impossible to enforce the law.

Democratic Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica says the legislation would be a major improvement over existing law.

The measure fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority it needed in the Senate on Tuesday, though it could be reconsidered Wednesday.

— AP