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More than 1,200 bills advancing
June 03, 2013, 05:00 AM By Don Thompson The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers have wrapped up the first half of this year’s legislative session by advancing hundreds of bills addressing a wide range of issues, including gun violence, environmental protection, oil drilling and even whether prison inmates should have access to condoms.

Lawmakers introduced 2,255 bills this year — 1,429 in the Assembly and 826 in the Senate. After Friday’s deadline to pass bills from their original house, the Senate had approved 514 while the Assembly advanced 755.

Lawmakers have until mid-September to decide which of the remaining 1,269 bills to send to Gov. Jerry Brown. Details about each bill are available at www.leginfo.ca.gov .

Among the hot topics are dozens of gun-control measures intended to deter the sorts of mass shootings that took place recently in other states.

“I think these bills put California at the head of the pack again in the nation” in regulating firearms, said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, after the Democratic majority advanced legislation limiting military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.

Lawmakers also want to tinker with the state’s landmark environmental protection law. There was bipartisan support for changing the four-decade-old law as the Senate unanimously approved Steinberg’s SB731. Steinberg said he expects more changes in the Assembly as lawmakers work to find the proper balance to speed up worthwhile construction projects while protecting the environment.

There is less consensus about regulating fracking, an increasingly popular method of extracting oil and gas. California has vast deposits that could once again make the state a leader in petroleum production at the same time it is taking aggressive steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But critics fear groundwater pollution from the chemicals injected into the earth and, at a minimum, want more disclosure.

Several bills attempt to shine more light on financial contributions that can influence elections and legislation. One would require increased disclosure in political ads, while another would make it more difficult for contributors to hide their identity by laundering their money through nonprofit groups. That bill responds to a secretive $11 million donation funneled last year through Americans for Responsible Leadership, an Arizona nonprofit corporation.

Then there are more specific bills, like the one that would require the state corrections department to distribute condoms in prisons. Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, said his AB999 would save the state money in the long run by reducing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, which he called “a tragic reality of life in prison.” A pilot program has already been conducted at the state prison in Solano.

A report based on that pilot program says condoms are currently available in the prison systems of two states, Vermont and Mississippi, and in five county jail systems in the U.S. That includes Los Angeles County, where they have been available since 2001, and San Francisco, which has distributed them to inmates since 1989.

Other bills that advanced to the next house include:

— SB38 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, would give gun owners on the state’s Armed and Prohibited Persons list a window to turn in their illegally held weapons under an amnesty program. The state Department of Justice says about 40,000 weapons are owned by individuals who bought them legally but are no longer allowed to own them.

— SB39 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and AB39, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would give poorer schools, those in more extreme climates and those with older, energy-wasting buildings priority for $450 million to be spent on energy-efficiency projects at schools. The bills differ from Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal on how best to spend money generated by voters’ approval in November of Proposition 39, which closed a corporate tax loophole.

— SB61 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would limit the use of solitary confinement in state prisons and county juvenile correctional facilities. Six other states ban solitary confinement as punishment for youths. Yee’s bill would allow its use only when a youth is deemed to pose an immediate and serious risk and other options have been exhausted.

— SB69 by Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge, includes Senate Democrats’ plan for changing the way California funds its schools, challenging the proposal offered by Gov. Jerry Brown, who wants schools with high numbers of poor students, English-learners and foster children to receive additional state aid. Senate Democrats say their plan is better than Brown’s because it would help more low-income students. The Senate’s move sets up negotiations with the Assembly and the Democratic governor as lawmakers rush to meet a June 15 deadline for passing a budget.

— SB108 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would require gun owners to lock up their weapons whenever they leave their property. Failing to lock a handgun could bring a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense.

— SB135 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would create an $80 million statewide earthquake early warning system.

— SB160 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, requires school districts and charter schools to report cases of teacher misconduct toward a child to the state Department of Education within 30 days of an employee’s dismissal. Currently, Lara says fired employees can simply move to a new district without detection. The bill responds to reports of child abuse within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

— SB209 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, responds to an appeals court ruling and subsequent California Franchise Tax Board decision requiring 2,500 small business owners and investors to pay retroactive income taxes on business investments. Those facing retroactive capital gains tax bills would be reimbursed for 75 percent of their tax loss.

— SB274 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would let a judge declare that a child has more than two parents if the court finds that recognizing only two parents is detrimental to the child. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year.

— SB380 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would require public agencies to obtain court orders before shutting down or interrupting cellphone service in most cases. The bill responds to Bay Area Rapid Transit Agency’s shutdown of mobile services during public protests in 2011. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a previous similar bill.

— SB391 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, would impose a $75 fee on the recording of most real estate-related documents, with the revenue matching federal money to build and preserve homes for low- and moderate-income families.

— SB686 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would prohibit car dealers and rental car companies from selling used cars that are under a federal safety recall until they’ve been fixed. Federal law already prohibits car dealers from selling new cars when they are under a federal safety recall; this bill would extend the same prohibition to the sale of used cars.

— SB770 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would strengthen California’s Paid Family Leave program by allowing workers to receive benefits while caring for seriously ill grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and in-laws.

— SB809 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, would impose a fee on medical providers to fund the state’s prescription drug database, which lets doctors and pharmacists quickly review patients’ records to deter drug abuse and to make sure patients are not taking harmful combinations of drugs. But the bill includes no money for Attorney General Kamala Harris to hire Department of Justice investigators to crack down on abuse.

A related bill, SB670 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, lets the California Medical Board inspect medical records of dead patients without a court order or relatives’ consent to determine if the death resulted from a doctor violating the law. The board also can limit a doctor’s authority to prescribe drugs during an investigation.

— Several measures are designed to protect workers who are in the country illegally. SB666 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and AB263 by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, would protect employees from retaliation for reporting workplace safety concerns, regardless of their immigration status. AB524 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullen, D-San Mateo, would make it a crime to extort money from a person by threatening to report their legal status.

— AB149 from Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, would require county probation officials to provide parolees with information on registering to vote.

— AB351 from Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, would prohibit state agencies, employees and the California National Guard from enforcing a federal law allowing for indefinite detainment.

— AB420 from Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, would limit when students can be suspended for “willful defiance.” A teacher could still remove a disruptive student from their classroom.

— AB609 by Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, would require open access to research papers when the research has been funded by state agencies. The bill responds to the case of Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide after he was charged by federal prosecutors and threatened with 35 years in prison for downloading academic journal articles funded by taxpayer money.

— AB641 from Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, would let child-care workers in California join unions to represent them in negotiating with state agencies.

— AB667 by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, would let local officials review the economic effects of some proposed big-box stores before construction begins. That assessment would include the wages and benefits for the store’s employees and the effect on existing retailers.

— AB700 by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, would add instruction on voter registration to the high school curriculum next time the state updates its history and social science standards. Schools would have to provide information on the importance of registering to vote in local, state and federal elections.

— AB881 by Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, would increase a fee on oil to fund the state’s oil spill prevention and preparedness program. The fund faces a structural deficit of $7 million, although Republican lawmakers say the problem was created when the state borrowed from the special fund to cover a deficit in the general fund.

— Several bills seek to help college students who are awarded Cal Grants. They include AB1287 from Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, which would require students to prove their eligibility once instead of annually. AB1285 from Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, would allow lower-income students to use grants intended to cover textbook costs to help pay for tuition and fees.

————

Associated Press writers Judy Lin, Laura Olson and Juliet Williams contributed to this story.


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