Bills Face Deadline in California Legislature

A bipartisan bill would preserve Southern California's tradition of allowing beach bonfires and prevent the regional air quality agency from enforcing restrictions

Hundreds of bills that failed to pass the Legislature last year face an end-of-the-month deadline to gain initial support, including measures affecting gun owners, the oil industry and farm laborers.

It's the first significant bill deadline of 2014, the second half of the Legislature's two-year session. The bills are dead if they don't pass the house where they originated by Jan. 31, and dozens of the holdover bills already have died in committees.

Some of the bills left over from last year have been stripped of their original language and entirely rewritten, a practice known as a gut-and-amend.

One such bill, SB477 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, began life last year as a measure to require grassroots financial support for ballot initiatives. But it was gutted and amended to require contractors who recruit farm laborers in other nations to register with California's labor commissioner and meet certain standards.

The reincarnation came after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Steinberg's original farm labor bill last year. If the revised legislation clears the Senate, it will head to the Assembly.

Sen. Noreen Evans' SB241 would impose a tax on companies that extract oil in California, a concept that is supported by Steinberg but has not been embraced by the governor.

Evans' bill is stalled in committee, but the Democrat from Santa Rosa plans to propose new legislation that would put the oil tax before voters on the 2016 ballot, an avenue that does not require Brown's approval.

Evans also is teaming with Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, to pass SB199 out of the Senate by month's end. The Imitation Firearm Safety Act would require that toy guns, BB guns, pellet guns, airsoft guns and the like be made to look clearly different from guns that fire bullets. The legislation follows the fatal shooting in October of 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, when a sheriff's deputy mistook the boy's airsoft rifle for a real AK-47.

"Toys should not get a child killed," Evans said in introducing the bill.

De Leon also faces a month-end deadline to advance his SB808, which would require anyone who assembles a homemade firearm to undergo a background check and register the weapon. The bill is intended to extend existing regulations to undetectable guns that can be made using 3-D printers and to anyone who buys parts that can be assembled into a gun.

De Leon, who is in line to succeed Steinberg as Senate leader, also has two weeks to move SB812, which would address problems at the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. The bill would set deadlines for issuing final permits to companies that produce hazardous waste, after the Los Angeles Times reported that companies have been allowed to operate for years, sometimes decades, on interim permits.

Republican lawmakers complained that most of their two-year bills have been killed by committees controlled by majority Democrats. But many Democratic bills have survived and face the Jan. 31 house-of-origin deadline. Among them:

  • California would set standards for short-term day care centers at fitness centers, shopping malls, grocery stores and other businesses under SB766 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. His bill would set age limits and require background checks for workers at drop-in day care centers. The measure was prompted by a toddler who was left with a permanent scar on his forehead after he fell in the child care area of a fitness center in Sacramento.
  • It would be illegal to steal and then analyze a person's DNA without written permission under SB222, by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles. He says the unauthorized analysis of a person's genetic material makes it possible to discover private health information and potentially use it in a harmful way. Neither state nor federal law blocks such secret collections and analysis, although Padilla says genetic analyses can be beneficial with proper safeguards.
  • Padilla also could seek to revive SB405, which would have phased out the use of single-use plastic checkout bags in grocery, drug and convenience stores. The bill failed on an initial vote in the Senate last May. More than 70 local governments already prohibit such bags, covering nearly 20 percent of Californians, and advocates said a statewide law would eliminate the current patchwork of policies.

Several bills are expected to die that would have altered what is now an $11.1 billion bond scheduled to go before voters in November. But other bills have been introduced that could be used to lower the cost or postpone voters' consideration of the measure, which already has been delayed twice. Lawmakers say they prefer a vote on an amended measure this year, given the drought.

Competing Senate bills aimed at permitting Internet gambling also will miss the end-of-month deadline. Yet aides say Sen. Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, and Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, plan to keep trying to authorize an industry that could bring the state budget hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue.

A bipartisan bill would preserve Southern California's tradition of allowing beach bonfires and prevent the regional air quality agency from enforcing restrictions. Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, teamed up to support AB1102 after Newport Beach proposed removing 60 fire pits from city beaches.

The state would further restrict the activities of paparazzi under AB1356, by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. The bill would amend the civil prohibition on stalking to prohibit surveillance techniques, including staying outside a person's home, school or workplace with no legitimate purpose. Brown last year signed a bill supported by actresses Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner that increases penalties for photographers and others who harass the children of public figures.

A bill by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, would attack the state's childhood obesity problem by prohibiting public schools, along with state-owned buildings, from serving chicken or turkey that has been "plumped" by injecting saltwater, chicken stock, seaweed extract or other substances. AB682 notes that "plumping" can increase the sodium content of fowl by 500 percent.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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