Calif. lawmakers face first deadline to pass bills
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California lawmakers are heading into the final week to move legislation from one house to the next with a lengthy to-do list, but it's one that does not include several high-profile tax bills sought by Democrats.
Among the bills expected to be tackled by the Assembly and Senate are ones on gun control, environmental protection and health care. Most bills must pass out of their first chamber by Friday to have a chance of reaching the governor's desk by the Sept. 13 deadline.
The floor votes follow rapid-fire committee meetings late last week during which lawmakers advanced or killed hundreds of bills.
A number of gun-control bills await the Democratic supermajorities in both chambers. A legislative package in the Senate introduced in response to the mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado would restrict the rapid reloading of weapons and prohibit possession by those who have committed various crimes.
Other bills awaiting action in the Assembly would track ammunition purchases and regulate gun storage.
Efforts to strengthen oversight of California oil drilling also will be under debate.
Several Assembly Democrats have sought a moratorium on a method known as hydraulic fracturing while its potential impacts are studied. Other lawmakers want to bolster water protections and increase disclosures of the chemicals used.
Senators are expected to consider changes to the California Environmental Quality Act. Critics of the landmark law, notably Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, say it has been improperly used to delay or block worthwhile projects. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, says his SB731 would streamline the law while protecting the environment.
On health care, pending legislation would make changes to Medi-Cal that would provide interpreters to patients who do not speak English and reverse reimbursement rate cuts for hospital-based nursing facilities.
A trio of bills from Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez of West Covina - SB491, SB492 and SB493 - would expand services that can be provided by nurse practitioners, optometrists and pharmacists to address a looming shortage of primary care physicians, but the measures face heavy opposition from doctors.
Some Democrats are frustrated that bills to impose or increase taxes on oil drilling, sugary drinks, tobacco and ammunition are absent from the agenda. Those bills failed to advance from legislative committees, effectively halting them for the year.
Brown has been cool to additional tax increases after voters approved his Proposition 30 last fall to raise the statewide income and sales taxes. He says lawmakers instead should focus on spending that money appropriately before seeking additional revenue.
"The voters just gave us a mandate by giving us a two-thirds majority in both houses," said Sen. Noreen Evans, a Santa Rosa Democrat who authored SB241 to create an oil-production tax. "If this isn't the year, when is it?"
Republicans have criticized attempts to again raise taxes, calling on the majority party to focus on expanding California's economy.
"The good news for taxpayers is that some major taxes have stalled for now," Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, said in a statement. "The bad news is there are still a number of nickel and dime taxes on the table that can add up and have a major hit on people's wallets."
Among other bills awaiting floor votes this week:
- AB10 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, would increase the minimum wage for the first time in six years. It would rise to $8.25 next year and to $9.25 by 2016.
- AB47 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, would impose a fine of up to $2,000 and a year in jail for making false 911 calls known as "swatting." A related bill passed the Senate, 33-0.
- AB241 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would establish labor protections for domestic workers. Brown vetoed a similar bill last year.
- SB61 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would limit the use of solitary confinement at state and county juvenile correctional facilities. Young offenders could be isolated only if they are deemed to be an immediate threat and if other options aren't working, and then only for the minimum time necessary.
- SB209 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, would undo a court decision requiring thousands of Californians to pay retroactive income taxes on business investments.
- SB323 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would deny state tax breaks to the Boy Scouts of America and other youth groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or religious affiliation. The scouts voted last week to allow gay scouts but to continue barring gays from becoming leaders.
- SB405 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would ban single-use plastic checkout bags in grocery, drug and convenience stores. More than 70 local governments already prohibit such bags.
- SB670 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, would accelerate investigations by the Medical Board of California, particularly in cases in which patients have died from prescription drug overdoses. It also requires the board to restrict physicians' prescription privileges during the investigation.
sacramento, bills, republicans, democrats, jerry brown, guns, health care, politics
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