California lawmakers face deadline to pass legislation
Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Whether to give airline passengers a break when they’re stuck on the tarmac, modify the state’s Three Strikes law and start charging customers for grocery bags are among hundreds of bills to be taken up this week as lawmakers race a midyear deadline.
Friday is the last day for bills to pass their first house. About 360 measures will be up for votes starting Tuesday after lawmakers return from a Memorial Day break.
The list would have been longer had it not been for California’s $19 billion budget deficit. Appropriations committees last week derailed dozens of bills for fear the state can’t afford the associated cost.
The bills that clear their originating chamber will soon start working their way through committees in the opposite house. Bills must pass both the Senate and Assembly by Aug. 31.
The legislation is a mix, from consumer protections to paparazzi restrictions to gun controls.
– The secretary of state’s official pre-election ballot pamphlet would tell voters which groups are financially backing initiatives under a bill by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord. His SB1202 would require listing the five top contributors to each ballot measure and the amount of their contributions as of 110 days before Election Day.
– Sports agents representing student athletes would have greater scrutiny and more restrictive contracts, under SB1098. The measure by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, would require agents to register with the Department of Industrial Relations. Student athletes would have 14 days to opt out of contracts, and agents would have to notify the student’s school within three days of signing the document.
– It would be tougher for local governments to file for bankruptcy under an Assembly bill that was amended in the Senate. AB155 by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, would require governments to go before the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission before filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. The local governments could override the commission’s recommendation.
– California could soon set its own comfort standards for airline passengers stuck on the tarmac for more than two hours. SB1264 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would require commercial airlines to provide passengers with food and beverages, restrooms, fresh air and lighting. The state Public Utilities Commission could fine airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for violations.
– Customers could redeem gift certificates or gift cards for cash if the remaining value is less than $20 under a bill by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro. Her SB885 also prohibits charging dormancy fees for unused cards. Her bill was prompted by the estimated $6.4 billion worth of gift cards that went unspent nationally in 2008.
– Private employers would have to give employees time off to donate organs or bone marrow under SB1304. The bill by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, would give employees of private companies the same leave rights that are available to many public employees.
– Consumers could opt out of receiving telephone directories under a bill by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. His SB920 would require directory publishers to put information on the cover of their directories telling recipients how they can avoid getting the printed listings in the future.
Here are some of the bills scheduled for Assembly votes this week:
– It would be illegal to openly carry a gun in public, even if it’s unloaded, under a bill by Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego. The bill, AB1934, would make it a misdemeanor to carry an exposed handgun on any public street or in a public place. Saldana says unloaded guns pose a threat to public safety, in part because gun owners are allowed to carry ammunition with them. Republicans say the bill would infringe on a person’s right to bear arms.
– Individuals convicted of illegally carrying a gun would be banned from owning a firearm for 10 years under AB2186 by Assemblyman Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles. De Leon says studies show that criminals convicted of firearm-related offenses are more likely to commit a violent offense. The bill would apply to individuals convicted of illegally carrying a concealed firearm in a motor vehicle, carrying a loaded firearm or permitting firearms in their vehicles.
– A criminal’s conviction as a juvenile would no longer count toward the state’s Three Strikes law under AB1751 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. Ammiano says the current law discriminates against juveniles who often are not given a jury trail. Republicans say the bill would put Californians at risk by allowing the release of convicted criminals who have committed serious crimes in the past.
– Paparazzi could be arrested for loitering outside a celebrity’s home or work place under legislation by Assemblywoman Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles. AB2479 also would make it a crime under California’s anti-stalking statute for paparazzi to participate in surveillance activities outside schools of a celebrity’s child. Bass says her bill is an effort to stem the aggressive tactics of paparazzi vying to get valuable photos and recordings of celebrities.
– Medical marijuana storefronts would be banned within 600 feet of a school under AB2650 by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo. Local governments that already have enacted ordinances governing the location of cooperatives and dispensaries would be exempted. Cities would be allowed to impose more stringent regulations under the bill. Medical marijuana advocates say the bill could result in the closure of dispensaries that serve thousands of ill patients.
– Supermarket shoppers would be charged for grocery bags beginning in 2012 under legislation by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica. AB1998 would ban grocery stores, large pharmacies and convenience stores from providing free plastic or paper bags. Only recycled paper bags made of 40 percent post-consumer material could be sold to shoppers who forget to bring their own bags. Brownley has said disposable bags are wasteful, and kill or maim marine wildlife and cost Californians more than $25 million a year to collect and truck to landfills. The California Taxpayers’ Association says disposable bags are affordable and convenient.
– The state would have a new Department of Energy led by a cabinet head under legislation by Assemblyman Mike Villines, R-Clovis. The department would replace the California Energy Commission. AB2561 is sponsored by the Schwarzenegger administration as a way to consolidate state energy policy.
– Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would need to win legislative approval to sell two dozen state office buildings under a bill by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate. The Republican governor has promoted the sales as a way to help close California’s $19 billion budget deficit. AB2605 also would require the administration to perform a 50-year cost-benefit analysis before selling the buildings. Lawmakers have questioned whether selling and then renting back the buildings makes economic sense.
Associated Press Writers Samantha Young and Robin Hindery contributed to this report.
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