Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Brutal battle for Fresno Assembly seat begins

The 31st Assembly District debate in Fresno on March 23, 2016 included Republican Clint Oliver, Democrat Ted Miller and Democrat Dr. Joaquín Arámbula.
The 31st Assembly District debate in Fresno on March 23, 2016 included Republican Clint Oliver, Democrat Ted Miller and Democrat Dr. Joaquín Arámbula.

The polls are open in the Fresno-area’s 31st Assembly District, where candidates are vying for a seat Henry Perea left vacant late last year. Three candidates – Democrats Joaquin Arambula of Kingsburg and Ted Miller of Caruthers, and Fresno Republican Clint Olivier–are running for control of the district and may have to win four votes in the next six months to hold onto it.

The unusual and grueling battle begins at the ballot box today, where the winning candidate must earn 50 percent of the vote to serve the remainder of Perea’s term, which ends in December. Falling short triggers a run off on the same day as the California primary, which is when things could get interesting. If both Democrats throw their hat in the ring again for the November election, voters could be asked to weigh in on both the special election and the regular primary on June 7. Then the winner has to hold onto the seat again in November.

DRUG HEARINGS: Amid a spur of opioid related overdoses in the Sacramento area that have taken 10 lives, lawmakers are pushing a bill to increase penalties for illegal distributors of fentanyl. Authorities are blaming the overdoses on bad batch of pills resembling Norco, a prescription painkiller, laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate. Senate Bill 1323 will be discussed in the Senate Public Safety Committee at 9 a.m., room 4203.

At the same hearing, senators will vote on a bill to reduce drug sentences for repeat offenders. Under current law, judges are allowed to tack on three extra years for each past felony drug conviction if an offender is found guilty of a new drug crime. A new measure, Senate Bill 966, introduced by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, attempts to repeal the law.

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DON’T SMOKE AND DRIVE: In likely the most awkward press conferences of the day, police officers will take an oral swab of a high person’s mouth to demonstrate the effectiveness of tests to determine if someone is driving under the influence of drugs. The event ties into Senate Bill 1462, introduced by Assemblymen Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, and Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, to allow police to resort to a swab test if a driver fails a field sobriety test. The hearing is at 1 p.m. in Capitol room 1190.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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