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Wednesday Capitol Roundup: Expanding Family Leave, Drug Price Transparency, School For Children Of Deportees

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The California Senate floor on September 12, 2017.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California lawmakers are continuing their push through hundreds of bills before the legislative session ends Friday. 

Here are some of the highlights:

UPDATE Sept. 14, 7:18 a.m.: Protections Approved For LGBT Seniors 

Wednesday the California Legislature passed a bill of rights for LGBT seniors living in long-term care facilities.

Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener said his measure would protect vulnerable seniors who are less likely to have adult children to advocate for them.

“We have stories and accounts of people who have been out their entire lives going back into the closet when they go into a nursing home or assisted living, of transgender people who are not properly treated,” Wiener said.

The bill would ban facilities from denying admission to, transferring or evicting a resident based on gender identity, sexual orientation or HIV status. It would also require staff to use names and pronouns that correspond to how residents identify themselves.

Conservative groups oppose the measure because it does not exempt religious institutions.

UPDATE 8:02 p.m.: Bill To Extend Age For Provisional Licenses To 21 Heads To Governor's Desk

Restrictions placed on minors who get a driver's license may soon be extended to young adults under a bill in front of Governor Jerry Brown. The measure would take effect in 2020.

The bill would require those under 21 to have a permit for six months and complete a driver's education program before applying for a license.

Those restrictions exist now for 16 and 17 year olds. Young adults who get a license would  be banned from driving between 11 at night and five in the morning and with anyone under 20 in the car without the presence of a licensed driver who's at least 25. Exceptions are made for school and employment.

Backers of the bill say its the 18 to 20 year driver who's at greatest risk of serious injuries and fatalities.

The author of the bill, Democratic Assemblyman Jim Frazier, lost his 20 year old daughter in a car accident back in 2000.

-- Drew Sandsor, Capital Public Radio



UPDATE 7:41 p.m.: Assembly Approves Bill For 5G Cellular Rollout

A bill that backers say would smooth the rollout of 5G cellular technology in California passed the Assembly yesterday. The proposal has faced criticism from local governments, which argue it would take away their powers of oversight.

While current cellular technology depends on a few big antennas, 5G will require lots of so-called “small cells.” In coming years, thousands could be affixed to neighborhood streetlights and traffic signals.

Supporters like Verizon and AT&T want the bill to streamline the approval process. And backers say it’s been amended so local governments can set deployment fees and standards for how small cells look.

But Rony Berdugo, a lobbyist for the League of California Cities, says they’re still not pleased with the bill.

“I think it’ll be tough for the governor to sign, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure the bill gets vetoed," Berdugo says. "And hopefully it doesn’t get that far.”

The bill now heads to the Senate, which passed an earlier version 32 to 1.

 -- Daniel Potter, Capital Public Radio


UPDATE 6:57 p.m.: "Ban The Box" Bill Passes Senate

A proposal to rework how employers in California consider job applicants with criminal records passed the state Senate yesterday.

The measure is intended to reduce recidivism by making it easier for people to find work after serving time. Critics argue it could complicate the hiring process and burdens small businesses that don’t have lawyers or personnel departments.

The measure passed 23 to 12, and now heads back to the state Assembly.

-- Daniel Potter, Capital Public Radio


UPDATE 6:52 p.m.: No Regional Power Grid - Yet

Two bills (AB 726 and AB 813) that would have moved California toward a regionalized electricity grid -- which supporters say would ease the transition to renewable energy, will not move forward.

Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), who sponsored the bills, said in a press release that there is "still more to discuss," and that work toward regionalization will continue in fall.



UPDATE 5:55 p.m.: Bill To Let Voters Raise Bridge Tolls Passes Assembly

Crossing Bay Area bridges could soon get much more expensive. A bill to let Bay Area voters decide whether to raise bridge tolls to fund a comprehensive regional traffic plan to reduce congestion has won approval by the state Assembly.

The bill will allow a toll hike to be placed before voters in the nine Bay Area counties. The ballot measure would ask for an increase in bridge tolls of up to three dollars.

The bill heads back to the state Senate.

- Drew Sandsor, Capital Public Radio


UPDATE 5:27 p.m.: Bills To Recognize Transgender And Nonbinary Californians Move Forward


A bill to make it easier for Californians to identify as a gender other than male or female on state documents could soon head to the governor’s desk.

The proposal known as the Gender Recognition Act passed 50 to 13 in the state Assembly, and now heads back to the Senate.

Democratic Assemblymember Todd Gloria says it will make changing IDs easier for transgender, intersex or nonbinary Californians.

“SB 179 will improve the lives of 250,000 Californians," Gloria says. "I think sometimes when we talk about this issue there’s a belief that it doesn’t affect that many people. A quarter of a million is estimated to be impacted by this for the better…”

The Assembly also passed a bill making it easier for transgender people in prison to change names and gender markers. Backers say if signed by the governor, it will ease re-entry and reduce recidivism.

 -- Daniel Potter, Capital Public Radio


UPDATE 1:16 p.m.: Family Leave, Drug Price Bills Head To Governor

California lawmakers have given final approval to two high-profile bills that have failed in recent years.

One measure would expand job-protected family leave to new mothers and fathers who work in small businesses. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar bills twice before but appears more inclined to sign this year’s proposal.

The other measure would force drug manufacturers to reveal more information about price increases. It’s a rare blow to the pharmaceutical industry, which has succeeded in blocking previous efforts at the state Capitol.

Both bills passed the Senate Wednesday after winning Assembly approval earlier this week.

— Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio

UPDATE 1:08 p.m.: Bill Would Let Deported Children Return To California Schools

The California Legislature has voted to let K-12 students who return to the U.S. after leaving the country when their parents were deported to also return to school.

The bill's author, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) says hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizen children leave with their deported parents.

“We hope this traumatic experience that they’ve suffered can be turned around and make them true bi-national citizens,” he says.

The bill, SB 257, would also apply to children whose parents brought them to the country illegally.

It would also entitle schools to receive state funding for these students.

The Senate gave the measure final approval Wednesday with support from Democrats and a handful of Republicans. It now moves to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

— Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio

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