Roundup of activity before legislative deadline

Published: Thursday, May. 29, 2014 - 9:42 pm

Assembly spurns measure for state pot regulators

The California Assembly stalled a bill Thursday that would create a state-level entity to oversee and license California’s medical marijuana industry.

No lawmakers rose to explicitly denounce Assembly Bill 1894, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. Some with concerns about preserving local control said they had been convinced that cities and counties could still pass and enforce their own rules around medicinal cannabis.

“We have medical marijuana dispensaries popping up next to schools, we have them popping up all over town,” said Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino. “It’s not a pretty sight in my community,” she added, “so please, sign on to this bill.”

But a large bloc of lawmakers from both parties withheld votes, ensuring that the measure would go no further. The final vote was 27 ayes, 30 nays , and 22 not voting.

– Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau

Senate passes bill on public preschool

A scaled-back proposal to offer public preschool to California’s low-income 4-year-olds was approved by the state Senate on Thursday despite Republican objections to the $378 million annual cost.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg originally set out to provide public preschool for all 4-year-olds in the state. But Gov. Jerry Brown did not include the idea in his budget proposal. The bill the Senate passed reflects the downsized plan Steinberg presented in a Senate budget subcommittee last week.

Senate Bill 837 passed the Senate 26-10 and now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

– Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau

Legislature could have role in voter initiatives

A bill to change California’s initiative process passed the state Senate with some bipartisan support Thursday, setting up the possibility that lawmakers could have a greater role in shaping the measures that citizens send to the ballot.

Senate Bill 1253 would create legislative hearings as initiative proponents are gathering signatures on their measures, allowing lawmakers to negotiate with interest groups before a measure lands on the ballot. It would also require more disclosure of donors giving the most money for and against initiatives.

Some Republicans opposed the bill, saying the whole point of an initiative is to allow people to effect change when lawmakers don’t resolve an issue. Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said Steinberg’s bill would take away the direct democracy inherent in California’s initiative process.

The bill passed the Senate 29-8 and now heads to the Assembly. Four Republicans joined majority Democrats in support: Republican leader Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, Sen. Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte, Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres and Sen. Mark Wyland of Solana Beach.

– Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau

Vote-by-mail measure advances to Senate

Seeking to improve low voter participation in special elections, the Assembly on Thursday narrowly passed and sent to the Senate legislation that would distribute all ballots by mail for elections to fill vacancies.

The constant shuffle of elected officials seeking new seats follows a familiar pattern – a state legislator resigns or wins election to a new office, and a tiny sliver of the electorate chooses a replacement. Turnout in a recent pair of special elections hovered around 12 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Citing the expense, the Senate leader floated letting the governor fill vacancies.

An effective solution, according to proponents of Assembly Bill 1873, is to make mailboxes, not polling places, the nexus of special elections. Voters otherwise unaware that an election is going on would be looped into affairs currently dominated by the most diligent voters.

Under the bill, which was sent to the Senate on a 42-30 vote, special elections to fill vacancies in the Legislature or Congress could be conducted exclusively by mail if the boards of supervisors in all involved counties agree.

– Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau

Sick-leave bill is passed – it’s on ‘job-killer’ list

As liberal policy priorities and business interests clashed, the Assembly on Thursday passed legislation requiring employers to offer workers paid sick leave.

Legislators sent the bill to the Senate on a 48-20 vote. Demonstrating the issue’s divisiveness, no Republicans voted for it.

Securing paid sick days for shift workers has been a priority for liberal politicians and labor unions across the country. Assembly Bill 1522 is sponsored by two prominent labor groups, the Service Employees International Union and the California Labor Federation.

For business groups and allied lawmakers, the bill would hamstring businesses by chipping away at their bottom line. The legislation holds a spot on the California Chamber of Commerce’s annual “job killers” list.

– Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau

Labeling of sugary drinks advances to Assembly

State senators narrowly approved legislation Thursday requiring warning labels on drinks with added sugars, a move supporters hope will curb obesity and diabetes.

“This epidemic is not only damaging the public’s health, it is costing all Californians,” said Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, who wrote Senate Bill 1000. “Sugar-sweetened beverages represent the single largest contributor to the diabetes epidemic.”

The legislation, which was sent to the Assembly on a 21-13 vote, would apply to sweetened drinks containing at least 75 calories per 12 ounces. Though the measure has the backing of health groups, including the California Medical Association., it faces opposition from industry groups.

Opponents argue the bill is unnecessary because the federal government is considering a nutrition label overhaul. They also argue there are negative health effects from consuming most foods in excess.

“Putting government warning labels on more than 500 beverages will do nothing to change personal behaviors to teach people about healthy lifestyles,” CalBev, the California arm of the American Beverage Association, said in a statement following the vote on SB 1000.

– Daniel Rothberg, Bee Capitol Bureau

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