The Associated Press
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making California the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags from grocery stores.

Time to invest in a reusable shopping bag.

Concluding the long odyssey of one of the most contentious bills of 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed legislation phasing out the single-use plastic bags that grocery stores and other retailers use to package products at the checkout line. Brown’s assent hands a sweeping victory to environmentalists and vindicates the scores of cities and counties that have already banned bags.

“This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself,” Brown wrote in a signing message. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

Minutes after Brown announced signing the bill, an industry group called the American Progressive Bag Alliance vowed to begin collecting signatures in an effort to overturn the law via a referendum on the 2016 ballot.

The Associated Press
Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated that he will sign a bill making California the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags from grocery stores.

Facing a deadline to take action before midnight tonight, Gov. Jerry Brown has been on a tear of bill signings in recent days. Over the weekend, he approved high-profile legislation that would set an “affirmative consent” standard for sexual activity on college campuses; eliminate sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine; and hold businesses liable when subcontractors violate wage, workplace safety or workers’ compensation rules, a priority for organized labor this session.

Several major bills remain on Brown’s desk on this final day, however – most notably a statewide ban on plastic grocery bags. The proposal generated controversy all year long and only passed through the Legislature after some intense political maneuvering, but Brown has said that he will “probably” sign it.

Less certain are the fates of a number of firearms bills, including one requiring toy guns to be brightly colored and another that would allow the family members of someone displaying signs of violence to petition for the temporary removal of their weapon. Brown has been on both sides of gun control legislation in the past.

VIDEO: Dan Walters reflects on Brown’s “canoe theory” of politics.

GCT33MOK1.2Senior Photographer
Paul Kitagaki Jr./ pkitagaki@sacbee.com
Gov. Jerry Brown meets with the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board on May 15, 2014.

By paddling a little on the left and a little on the right, Gov. Jerry Brown steers down the political middle, Dan says.

Have a question you’d like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Tuesday, September 30 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoes franchise bill
GUP33N40K.2Senior Photojournalist
Renee C. Byer/ rbyer@sacbee.com
A man enjoys some McDonald’s food on May 23, 2012 in Vacaville, California.
Rich Pedroncelli/ AP
Gov. Jerry Brown discusses a bill while meeting with advisers at his Capitol office on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. Brown has until midnight Sept. 30 to sign or veto hundreds of bills that were approved in the final weeks of the legislative session. At left is advisor Nancy McFadden.

Siding with corporate chain stores that warned of degraded service, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday vetoed a bill giving franchise owners more power in business transactions.

The legislation sought to alter the relationship between parent companies and the franchisees who operate individual businesses, with supporters saying the bill would reduce franchisors’ authority to rigidly dictate the terms under which franchisees operate. In his veto message, Brown noted that the two sides were far apart in the debate over the bill and suggested “it is in the best interest of all that a concerted effort be made to reach a more collaborative solution.”

Proponents, including the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers and the California Labor Federation, said it is too easy for franchisors to cancel contracts or block sales of franchises. Among other provisions, Senate Bill 610 would have raised the standard for refusing to renew a contract from “good cause” to “substantial and material breach of the franchise agreement.”

Brown said he had doubts about the change: “While the good cause standard is common and well understood, the standard provided by this bill is new and untested,” he wrote.

Jose Luis Villegas/jvillegas@sacbee.com
Jose Luis Villegas/jvillegas@sacbee.com

They didn’t trust a colleague. Felt their boss wouldn’t listen. Feared a powerful official would retaliate if they complained.

That was the workplace culture described Monday by sergeants-at-arms of the California Senate when they took the witness stand in Sacramento Superior Court.

The testimony came on the last day the jury heard evidence in a trial in which two men are charged with robbing the house of Gerardo Lopez, a former Senate peace officer, before he followed them outside and engaged in a gunfight that left three people wounded and one man dead.

Lopez worked for the Senate for 15 years until The Sacramento Bee revealed this spring that he tested positive for cocaine and marijuana the night of the off-duty shooting. His boss, longtime Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard, stepped down days later. His mother, Dina Hidalgo, announced her retirement last week after 25 years as the Senate’s head of human resources.

Hector Amezcua/ hamezcua@sacbee.com
Ivania Areas waits for the doors to open at the American River College Natomas Center on August 26, 2013.

In what could portend a monumental shift in public higher education in California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Sunday that will allow up to 15 community colleges to launch bachelor’s degrees programs in vocational fields.

While 21 other states offer community college baccalaureates, California’s colleges have traditionally been the domain of transfer students and career technical education, granting two-year associate degrees, as established more than 50 years ago in the Master Plan for Higher Education. Senate Bill 850 will allow colleges to experiment with four-year degrees. The pilot program is set to begin no later than the 2017-18 academic year and end in 2024.

In recent years, advocates have argued that growing industry demand for more educated workers in fields such as dental hygiene and automotive technology could be met by expanding existing programs at community colleges.

“This is landmark legislation that is a game-changer for California’s higher education system and our workforce preparedness,” state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who authored the bill, said in a statement. “SB 850 boosts the focus of our community colleges on job training and increasing the accessibility and affordability of our state’s higher education system.”

GBG33LQ2K.2Senior Photographer
Paul Kitagaki Jr./ pkitagaki@sacbee.com
Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, was joined by, from left, UC Davis student Ana Maciel, UC President Janet Napolitano and Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez when he announced SB 1210 in April.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation creating a new loan program for undocumented students in California’s public universities.

Senate Bill 1210, by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would make available $9.2 million for University of California and California State University campuses to administer loans to students who are in the country illegally. These students, who are ineligible for federal financial aid and most private loans, often face a gap in funding their education – an estimated $5,000 to $6,000 at UC and $3,000 at CSU, according to Lara’s office.

“This bill will grow our college-educated workforce and make good on the promise that a college degree is possible for all hard-working California students, regardless of immigration status,” Lara said in a prepared statement.

California has already taken several steps to make college more affordable for undocumented students, including extending in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who graduate from California high schools and making them eligible to apply for Cal Grant scholarships.

Steve Yeater/ AP
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, right, and then-California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring talk during the opening night dinner of the California Republican Convention in Sacramento in 2011.

Ron Nehring, former head of the California GOP and candidate for lieutenant governor, is resorting to some unorthodox overtures after Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom rebuffed efforts to coordinate a debate.

Nehring, in only-somewhat tongue-in-cheek remarks Monday, said he’s even willing to accept a debate moderated by liberal MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz. If the left-leaning cable channel can’t accommodate the request ahead of the Nov. 4 election, Nehring said in a statement, then he could be talked into appearing on Russian government-funded RT or North Korea’s KCNA, “although with that last one we can't find a bureau for them in the United States.”

Newsom’s campaign is exceedingly unlikely to oblige. Spokesman Sean Clegg said flatly that he doesn’t anticipate the incumbent participating in any debates. In an email, Clegg cited Nehring’s recent salty email to state party leaders in which he bemoaned the disunity among GOP statewide candidates.

“Ron Nehring, who just attacked his own GOP members in a profanity-laced tirade, is out-of-control, reckless, desperate, and we have no intention of promoting him,” Clegg said.

Sean Parker, the former president of Facebook, in New York on Nov. 30, 2011.

Almost $1 million has poured into campaign committees supporting and opposing Proposition 47 on the Nov. 4 ballot in the past week, with proponents of the measure to reduce penalties for certain crimes outraising critics by more than 4-to-1 over the past two months.

The initiative would change some drug and property crimes to misdemeanors instead of felonies. It would direct any savings to mental health and substance abuse treatment, efforts to reduce school truancy, and other programs.

Saturday, Public Storage executive B. Wayne Hughes contributed $505,000 to the yes-on-Prop. 47 committee, on top of the $750,000 he gave earlier this year. Last Thursday, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Sean Parker, a former president of Facebook, donated $100,000 to the yes-on-47 campaign.

A day earlier, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, an umbrella group of law-enforcement unions, gave $230,000 to the No-on-47 committee, which had raised less than $44,000 until then. The same day, New York-based Drug Policy Action gave $100,000 to Yes-on-47.

Lezlie Sterling/ lsterling@sacbee.com
Proposition 46 would raise the damages cap on medical malpractice lawsuits and require drug and alcohol testing for doctors.

One of the most contentious battles in the November election is over Proposition 46, an initiative to raise the cap for pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and require drug and alcohol testing for doctors. The high-stakes, big-money campaign has pitted insurance companies and medical care providers against consumer advocates and personal injury lawyers – the latest front in a decades-old fight.

Proponents of the measure are hoping the drug screening mandate will compel voters to more than quadruple the damages limit to $1.1 million, which would be the first adjustment to medical injury compensation in 39 years. But polling shows that support has plummeted in recent months and its fate is highly uncertain.

As part of a state law that requires the Legislature to hold public hearings on ballot measures, the Senate and Assembly judiciary, business and health committees will conduct a hearing on Proposition 46 at 1:30 pm. in Room 4202 of the Capitol. Supporters and opponents of the measure will testify, as will as a nonpartisan representative of the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

VIDEO: Dan Walters wonders why the state Senate won’t release its investigation into nepotism allegations. Did Dina Hidalgo know too much?

Rich Pedroncelli/ The Associated Press
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg agreed not to release the details of an investigation into nepotism allegations in the state Senate.

Dan wonders why the state Senate won’t release its investigation into nepotism allegations. Did Dina Hidalgo know too much?

Have a question you’d like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

Rebecca Blackwell/ AP
This July 28, 2014, file photo shows Gov. Jerry Brown as he speaks during a joint press conference with Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jose Antonio Meade in Mexico City.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed nationally watched legislation requiring California colleges to adopt rape-prevention policies that include an “affirmative consent” standard for sexual assault, his office said Sunday.

The standard puts responsibility on someone engaging in sexual activity to obtain an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement from his or her partner.

The measure, Senate Bill 967, by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, comes in response to increasing public attention on sexual assaults on college campuses.

“As the father of a young college-age daughter, I was stunned, I was quite surprised when I read the statistic that 20 percent of young women have been sexually assaulted on a college campus,” de León, the incoming Senate leader, said last month.

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