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Capitol Blog: Climate Change, Medical Marijuana Bills Pass


12:20am: Anti-Tobacco Bills Will Not Advance

Six bills that would place tighter regulations on the tobacco industry will not be acted upon tonight (this morning!) by the Assembly.

Among the measures: bills that would raise the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21 and regulate e-cigarettes.

11:35pm: Medical Marijuana Regulations Advance To Governor

California will soon have its first ever regulations for medical marijuana, nearly two decades after voters legalized it.

Three bills that contain a deal reached by lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown's office passed the Legislature late Friday night, roughly 24 hours after a deal was reached.

Hard-Fought But Scaled-Back Climate Bill To Become Law

Gov. Jerry Brown is praising the California Legislature for passing climate change legislation late Friday night.

"Now we have the legal mandate to reduce carbon pollution," Brown said in a statement after the Senate gave final approval to SB 350. The Assembly passed the measure earlier this evening (see below).

Family Leave Bill Narrowly Escapes Legislature

California lawmakers have sent Gov. Jerry Brown legislation that would expand the state's family leave program, though the bill had appeared stalled for much of the day.

It began the day seven votes short in the Assembly because of heavy opposition from business groups. It later passed with the bare-minimum 41 Assembly votes, and passed the Senate soon after.

Current law allows Californians who work for companies with 50 or more employees to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks a year to care for a parent, child or spouse, as well as to "bond" with a new child. SB 406 would also permit family leave to care for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings or domestic partners.

Employers do not have to pay employees while they're on leave, but many workers are eligible for paid leave from the state because they contribute to the state's disability insurance program.

The bill is one of the few remaining still alive that has been labeled a "job-killer" by the California Chamber of Commerce.

Brown has until October 11th to sign or veto the measure.

Climate Legislation Passes Assembly

The California Assembly has approved what remains of Gov. Jerry Brown's ambitious climate change agenda, after a key provision was stripped from the bill.

SB 350 passed late Friday on a 51-27 vote.  The action came only after a proposal for a 50 percent reduction in vehicle petroleum use failed to gather enough votes from Assembly Democrats, and was removed earlier this week. The measure still calls for a doubling of building energy efficiency and raising the amount of energy California derives from renewable sources from one-third to one-half by 2030.

The measure returns to the Senate for a final vote later tonight. Brown's signature is virtually guaranteed should the bill reach his desk.

No Deal To Close Looming Medi-Cal Shortfall

State and health industry leaders failed to reach a deal Friday to close California’s looming $1 billion Medi-Cal budget shortfall.

Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers had proposed a reworked tax on managed care organizations to pay for the expected deficit in next year’s spending plan. Medi-Cal pays for health care for the state’s low-income families, including seniors and people with disabilities.

State Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley said in a written statement that it was “deeply disappointing” that the health plans and Republican lawmakers could not unite to support an agreement.

“Without additional revenue, there will be no alternative to reductions in our health care spending, jeopardizing the significant gains we have made through our implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” Dooley said in the statement.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly Republican Caucus said the state is offering the wrong solution and “trying to manufacture a false emergency.”

“Rushing to slap Californians with higher health insurance premiums is not a realistic plan,” spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said in a written statement. “If this is the best option then it will still be the best option when we return in January.”

The head of the California Association of Health Plans called reaching a deal “a difficult task.”

Charles Bacchi, the association’s CEO, added in a statement that all sides have another year to “hammer out a solution.”

- Chris Nichols / Capital Public Radio


Lawmakers Ask Brown For Special Session On Drought

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A bipartisan group of California lawmakers is asking Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a special session to deal with the state's ongoing drought.

In a letter delivered to the governor Friday and provided to The Associated Press, the 47 members of the state Assembly say a special session is needed to address the unprecedented water crisis, which could worsen as California faces a possible El Nino weather pattern that could bring floods.

The letter says the state needs to speed up the spending of $687 million in funding lawmakers approved to help drought-stricken communities. The Associated Press reported this year that $320 million remained unspent.

Republican Assemblyman Devon Mathis is spearheading the effort. He says lawmakers have talked about water supply issues all session but little has been accomplished.


Motor Voter Bill Heads to California Governor

A measure that would boost California’s voter rolls -- potentially by millions of people -- cleared its final hurdle in the Legislature on Friday.

The New Motor Voter Act, or AB 1461, now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown following final approval in the Assembly.

It would register every eligible Californian who obtains or renews a license at the Department of Motor Vehicles, unless that person chooses to opt out.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, both Democrats, teamed up to lead the measure.

Both called it one of several steps to turn around the state’s dismal voting turnout numbers. Just 42 percent of eligible voters turned out last November, a record-low for a California general election.

“We must take action to improve the record low voter turnout in recent California elections,” Padilla said in a news release on Friday, noting that more than 6.6 million California citizens are eligible to vote but not registered. “Democracy is stronger when more citizens can vote.”

Republican lawmakers have criticized the bill, calling it a political move to register more Democrats. The bill’s supporters say it gives all parties a chance to improve their numbers.

The governor has until mid-October to decide on the bill.

- Chris Nichols / Capital Public Radio


End Of Life Act Now In Gov. Jerry Brown's Hands

The decision of whether to allow terminally ill Californians to end their lives prematurely now rests with Gov. Jerry Brown.

After a final, emotional debate at the Capitol, the state Senate on Friday voted 23 to 14 to send Brown the End of Life Option Act.

You can read more on this story here.


- Chris Nichols / Capital Public Radio


Bill To Expand California's Paid Family Leave Stalls In Assembly

A bill that would expand California’s family leave eligibility has stalled in the state Assembly, falling seven votes short for the time being.

A final vote tally is expected later Friday.

SB 406 would expand the list of relatives that employees could take time off to care for. For example, workers could take leave for grandparents, grandchildren and siblings with serious health conditions.

Several supporters urged their colleagues on the Assembly floor Friday morning to pass the bill.

"We have families now … that are not necessarily just the mother and father and the child. But often the grandparents are involved in the caring and raising of children," said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego.

The California Chamber of Commerce included the measure on its "job killer" list, saying it would increase costs and the risk of litigation for businesses.

"We always just take the next step and the next step and the next step after that. And that’s where you get businesses fleeing California. That’s where you get rules and regulations that are job killers," Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine, said on the floor.

- Chris Nichols / Capital Public Radio


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