Good Labor Day morning, California.
“I am a fun-loving individual who is guilty of occasional playfulness.”—Sen. John Moorlach, an Orange County Republican, apologizing after the Senate Rules Committee reprimanded him for giving a noogie to a woman who requested a photo with him.
Legislators leave Sac but they’ll be back
Bill would give big cities later last call
Legislators ended their two-year session with a measure authorizing $1 billion over five years for fire prevention and helping utilities pay for the 2017 wildfires.
The bill is intended to help Pacific Gas & Electric Co. avoid bankruptcy by passing some 2017 fire costs to ratepayers. The amount is to be determined.
Legislators also passed nationally-watched legislation on clean energy, net neutrality, online privacy, cash bail, women on corporate boards and much more. CALmatters’ staff compiled some of the other noteworthy legislation now awaiting the governor’s signature in this handy guide.
For kids, sugary drinks would be available on demand, but off the menu. For big kids, bars could stay open til 4 a.m. in some cities, and commercial cannabis sellers will be able to continue to operate legally after Dec. 31 with provisional licenses.
Noteworthy bills that died include ones to:
- Create a western regional electricity grid, sought by Brown. The next governor will take that issue up.
- Force more review onto the Cadiz Water Project in the Mojave Desert. There are more steps before the project proceeds. Cadiz Inc. has not announced a date for the start of construction.
- Impose a tax on water to pay for clean water. Legislators were influenced by the figurative ghost of Josh Newman, the Democratic senator who was recalled in June for voting for a gas tax increase.
It's time to make behavioral health solutions a top priority in California.
A shift on crime and punishment
Felony murder rule could change
The criminal justice pendulum continued its swing away from tough-on-crime attitudes as the Legislature sought to end cash bail, increase transparency on policing, and pass a major revision to the “felony murder” rule.
Current law: Accomplices to crimes that result in death are fully culpable whether or not they know a murder would occur. Critics say the long-standing rule falls especially hard on women and young defendants.
The change: Berkeley Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner described it earlier this year:
“A person may only be convicted of murder if the individual willingly participated in an act that results in a homicide or that was clearly intended to result in a homicide.”
A major participant who doesn’t pull the trigger but acts with reckless indifference to life still could face murder charges.
History: Tom Hayden, the late state senator from Santa Monica, carried a similar bill in 1999; it got only nine votes in the 40-seat Senate.
Hayden cited the case of Brandon Hein, convicted with three others in the 1995 killing of a policeman’s son in Agoura Hills while attempting to steal his marijuana. Hein didn’t know the victim had been stabbed until afterward.
He became the focus of a documentary and a “60 Minutes” episode. LA Times columnist Al Martinez described him as “a strikingly handsome young man living in the hilly, tree-shaded serenity of a Conejo Valley suburb under the best possible circumstances.”
What’s next: Hein, serving a life sentence at Avenal State Prison, is eligible for parole in 2019. Like many others, he could seek resentencing if Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill into law. Opponents, including county prosecutors, could change the change in court.
Gay conversion bill could come back
Assemblyman Evan Low, Campbell Democrat.
Assemblyman Evan Low, the Legislature’s LGBT caucus chairman, took an extraordinary step Friday, abandoning a bill that declared that gay conversion therapy to be a fraudulent business practice, even though he had sufficient votes for final passage.
Low’s bill sought to ban people from profiting by offering what he calls fraudulent conversion therapy for adults. Conservative Christian groups packed the Capitol earlier this year, saying the bill could infringe on their practices.
What’s next: Low told me he dropped the measure—after it passed both houses—after he met with evangelical leaders and concluded there might be common ground. He said he intends to reintroduce a measure in 2019 and hopes to get Republican support.
The presidents of Biola, Azusa Pacific and Point Loma Nazarene universities: “In Mr. Low’s decision, we see his desire in the state of California to make room for collaboration without anyone forfeiting their convictions. We applaud his commitment to pluralism and dialogue.”
Other considerations: In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law requiring that religious anti-abortion pregnancy “crisis” centers inform patients whether they’re licensed medical facilities and provide information about abortion services.
That decision could have applied to Low’s conversion therapy measure. If a court were to strike it down, such a ruling could threaten an earlier law banning conversion therapy for minors.
Commentary from CALmatters
Official portrait of Gov. Jerry Brown
Author Miriam Pawel: Amid speculation as to why Jerry Brown has waited so long to make his fourth appointment to the California Supreme Court, the governor has said he does not want to rush. The decision will shape how future historians evaluate the Brown era.
CALmatters commentator Dan Walters: Assessing unions’ strength on Labor Day, concluding that the legislative session “provided more proof of the symbiotic relationship between California’s labor unions and the Legislature’s Democratic majority.” There are, however, problems ahead.
See you tomorrow.