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Tuesday's Capitol Roundup: "Safe Zones" For Drug Use Stalls, Workplace Bills Advance, 'Sanctuary State' Split

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The California State Capitol on September 12, 2017.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Tuesday proved to be another busy day at the California state Capitol as lawmakers rolled through hundreds of bills ahead of Friday's end-of-session deadline.

An effort to "Safe Zones" for drug use stalls, law enforcement groups are split on the "sanctuary state" bill, and employee-friendly workplace measures involving job-protected family leave and a job applicant's salary history advance.

Here are some of the highlights:

UPDATE 10:55 p.m.: Bill To Create "Safe Zones" For Drug Use Stalls in California Senate

A proposal to create legal spaces in California for intravenous drug users to shoot up has fallen two votes short in the state Senate.

Under the measure a handful of California counties - and their cities - could choose to pilot supervised injection centers. The centers would be staffed by healthcare professionals and provide clean needles and treatment referrals.

Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County) said the centers could become “magnets” for social problems linked with illegal drug use.

“I’ll be honest with you,“ Stone told his colleagues during the bill's debate Tuesday on the Senate floor. “In my wildest dreams I would never have thought I’d be standing on the floor of the Senate condoning people having a safe zone to shoot heroine.”

Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) declared that society was failing at getting people off drugs. So, he said, why not give specific counties the option of trying a model that's been used to combat drug addiction in Australia.

“Where we’ve seen people actually get off of drugs,“ Weiner said. “And a high success rate in getting people into treatment and breaking addiction because people have access to services.”

The measure could still be brought be back for one more try before the Legislature adjourns at the end of the week.

-- Julia Mitric, Capital Public Radio


UPDATE 5:28 p.m.: Law Enforcement Groups Divided On California Sanctuary State Bill

California’s law enforcement community is split on the “sanctuary state” bill agreement reached this week by Democratic Senate leader Kevin de León and Gov. Jerry Brown. But there appears to be enough support for the deal to ensure its passage later this week.

The California State Sheriffs Association has led the opposition to the bill, which seeks to ban state and local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The association’s president, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, credited the governor for the final bill containing about 80 percent of what sheriffs asked for.

But, Sheriff Brown added, “it still is very problematic in terms of going too far in cutting off communications with our federal law enforcement counterparts.”

The amendments have won the support of Asm. Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), a former Sacramento County sheriff’s captain who leads a group of moderate Democrats. In a statement, he says the bill now ensures protection only for California’s law-abiding immigrants.

And the California Police Chiefs Association has dropped its opposition.

-- Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio


UPDATE 4:49 p.m.: Another Try For New Parent Leave Expansion

California lawmakers are once again trying to expand job-protected family leave to new mothers and fathers who work in small businesses.

Current law only allows up to 12 weeks off for workers at companies with 50 or more employees. SB 63 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) would expand the program to companies with at least 20 employees.

“Imagine a woman who’s taking care of a child, who’s the primary caregiver, and now has to make the decision about keeping a child healthy, nurturing that child the way the child deserves – and being fired from her job!” Asm. Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) said during Assembly debate Tuesday.

The California Chamber of Commerce calls the bill a “job-killer” because it would increase costs and burdens for small businesses. And Gov. Jerry Brown expressed similar concerns as he vetoed two previous efforts.

In his veto message last year, the governor suggested steering disputes to mediation to avoid lawsuits.

A late amendment to this year’s bill adds a pilot mediation program, which the Chamber calls "flawed." The governor's office confirms it's worked with the bill's author and continue to review the bill.

No lawmaker spoke in opposition to the bill on the Assembly floor, but it passed largely along party lines – although a handful of Republicans backed it as well. It now faces a final vote in the Senate later this week before it reaches Governor Brown.

-- Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio


3:39 p.m.: Senate Votes To Prevent Employers From Asking About Salary History

The California Senate Tuesday passed a bill that would make it illegal for an employer to seek the salary history of an applicant.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson noted women are still being paid less than men for the same work. She argued that systematic under-compensation can then perpetuate a vicious cycle.

“If you’re historically underpaid, using salary history as the baseline just simply bakes in that inequality,” Jackson says. ”This bill will stop the 'baking in' of the gender wage gap by prohibiting an employer from seeking salary history information from a prospective employee.”

The bill, AB 168 by Asm. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) would also require employers to provide salary scale information to applicants upon request.

The California Chamber of Commerce opposes the measure, arguing that existing law already prevents employers from basing an employee's compensation solely on salary history. The bill now goes to the Assembly for a final vote.

-- Julia Mitric, Capital Public Radio

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