News and analysis on California politics
Gov. Brown signs bills to help juvenile offenders, Title IX compliance

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he has signed 33 bills into law, including measures providing the automatic sealing of juvenile offenders' records if they comply with court directions and requiring schools to report, by gender, who is participating in their sports programs.

The juvenile offender bill, by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), will help young nonviolent offenders get their lives back on track so they can become productive members of society, its author says.

The measure provides for the automatic sealing of juvenile records in cases in which the youth successfully completes all court-imposed sanctions. Existing law allows for the sealing but requires the offender to petition the court and many never file a petition, Leno said.

"We know that young people who have been in trouble, if given the chance, can turn their lives around before it’s too late,” said Leno, who added that his SB 1038 “helps ensure that nonviolent juvenile offenders who have paid their debt to...

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California Senate approves bill in response to Isla Vista massacre

The state Senate on Friday gave final legislative approval to a measure, proposed in response to the Isla Vista massacre, that would help identify whether troubled individuals are armed.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) introduced the bill, which now goes to the governor for consideration, after 22-year-old Elliot Rodger went on a rampage in Isla Vista in May, killing six UC Santa Barbara students and injuring 13 other people.

At the request of family members concerned about Rodger, police prior to the incident had conducted a welfare check -- contacting the individual to see if he is OK -- but did not discover that he owned guns.

The legislation would require law enforcement agencies to adopt policies that would encourage officers conducting welfare checks on individuals thought to be a possible danger to themselves and others to review the state’s gun-owners database to see if weapons are owned by the subjects of the checks.

“What we do know is if we have this tool in the...

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California Sen. Ben Hueso arrested on suspicion of drunk driving

State Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) was arrested early Friday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Hueso, 44, was stopped at 2:24 a.m. by CHP officers who spotted him driving the wrong way on a one-way street, 15th Street near the state Capitol, CHP Officer Julie Powell said.

Hueso was driving a state car, a white Ford Fusion at the time, she said.

“The officers observed objective signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication,” Powell said, adding that a subsequent field investigation determined that Hueso was under the influence of alcohol and “unable to safely operate the vehicle.”

Hueso was taken into custody by the officers and booked into Sacramento County Jail at 3:27 a.m., county records indicate. He faces two possible misdemeanor charges, including driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more. Bail was set at $1,482.

Earlier in the evening, he had attended a reception by the Latino Legislative Caucus for members...

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Lawmakers seek to reduce crack cocaine sentences to those of powder

The state Senate gave final legislative approval Thursday to a bill that would reduce the penalties for the sale of crack cocaine to the same levels for powdered cocaine, addressing concern that the sentencing disparity harms minority communities.

People convicted of intent to sell crack cocaine can be sentenced to three to five years behind bars under current state law, while those offenses involving powder involves sentences of two to four years.

The measure, which now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration, was introduced by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and reduces the sentencing range for crack to that of powder. It addresses Mitchell’s stated concern that crack convictions in low-income and minority communities are more common because crack is cheaper than powder.

Mitchell said that between 2005 and 2010, African Americans made up 77% of California state sentences for possession of crack for sale, while Latinos accounted for 18% and Caucasians accounted for less than 2%...

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New law requires civilian investigation of military sex assault cases

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Thursday a measure requiring that sexual assault allegations by members of the California National Guard, State Military Reserve, and the Naval Militia be investigated and prosecuted by local civilian prosecutors instead of the chain of command of the Guard or California Military Department.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) introduced SB 1422 because of concerns about the quality of internal military probes.

“Sexual assault is a serious problem throughout our military,” Padilla said. “While Washington debates how to address this crisis, California can lead by example.  Victims of sexual assault deserve our support and a respectful and effective justice system.” 

The governor also legalized what is already a popular practice by pet owners throughout the state -- bringing their canine companions to outdoor restaurants.

State law technically bans dogs in eating establishments, but the provision has been inconsistently enforced. AB 1965 by Assemblywoman Mariko...

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Tempers flare in state Senate over flurry of hostile amendments

Tempers flared in the state Senate on Thursday over a series of hostile amendments proposed by Republicans, including one on the hot-button issue of immigration.

The Senate approved a bill that would expand the number of immigrants in the country illegally who would get in-state tuition at state universities.

The action took place after some Senate Republicans tried unsuccessfully to pass a hostile amendment that would also have extended in-state tuition to U.S. military personnel who were stationed in California for more than a year before their discharge and who are using "G.I. Bill" education benefits to attend college.

Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) said the tabling of his amendments sent a bad message. The state will provide benefits to people in the country illegally, he said, “But if they volunteer to serve in our military we’re not going to allow them to have in-state tuition. That’s wrong.”

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Anderson’s issue is a...

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Gov. Brown, California Democrats seek $3 million to help migrant kids

Seeking to address the swell of unaccompanied children from Central America who have immigrated to the U.S. illegally, Gov. Jerry Brown and California lawmakers announced Thursday a proposal to provide $3 million in legal aid to those minors.

"Helping these young people navigate our legal system is the decent thing to do and it's consistent with the progressive spirit of California," Brown said in a statement.

The legislative proposal would give $3 million to qualified nonprofit organizations that provide legal assistance to unaccompanied minors. There are an estimated 3,900 Central American children currently in the state who have come to the country without a parent or other relative.

"These kids face a daunting immigration process and any failures in our justice system that lead to deportation can be a death sentence," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. 

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and members of the Latino Caucus paid a visit this summer to a temporary...

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State lawmakers seek end to mandatory sentences for some drug crimes

The state Senate on Thursday gave final legislative approval to a measure that would eliminate mandatory 90-day jail sentences for some drug crimes while supporters fended off an attempted hostile amendment to oppose the state cap-and-trade program.

The measure, which now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration, would apply to those with a first-time conviction for being under the influence of specified controlled substances.

The measure is aimed at diverting more drug users to rehabilitation programs, according to Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). “Evidence has shown that mandatory minimum sentences are not effective in reducing crime,” Mitchell said.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said money was better spent elsewhere than incarceration. “Treatment is more effective,” he said.

AB 2492 by Assemblyman Reginald Jones Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) passed on a 21-11 vote after Republicans made an unsuccessful attempt to amend the bill to stop the state’s cap-and-trade program.

Sen. Andy...

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California Senate approves four-year degrees at community colleges

With universities less accessible to many students, the state Senate on Thursday gave final legislative approval to a measure that would allow California community colleges to offer four-year degrees in up to 15 campuses.

Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego) said his measure, which now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration, is needed to fill a work force skills gap in some parts of the state.

“By 2025 our state will need 1 million more adults with four-year degrees,” Block said. “We need to use all of California’s resources – including our community colleges – to close that gap.”

Some 20 other states allow community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees, he noted. Lawmakers said many students cannot afford or get into state universities. "This is a viable way to help these young people," said Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido).

SB 850 would allow 15 community college districts to offer one baccalaureate degree program each beginning Jan. 1 and ending in 2023.

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California lawmakers OK bill that would ban Confederate flag displays

A bill that would prohibit California from displaying or selling merchandise with the Confederate flag is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk, after getting final legislative approval in the Assembly on Thursday. 

The measure by Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) would prohibit the state from displaying or selling merchandise emblazoned with the Confederate flag. The ban would not apply to images of the flag found in books, digitial media or state museums if displayed for educational or historical purposes.

Hall introduced the bill, AB 2444, after his mother, on a visit to the Capitol, saw a replica of Confederate money sold in the gift shop. The money contained a picture of the flag.

The bill passed the Assembly on a bipartisan 66-1 vote, a symbol, Hall said, of "standing together united to fend off the ugly hatred of racism that's been portrayed and demonstrated through the emblem of the Confederacy."

The sole no vote in the Assembly was from former GOP gubernatorial candidate...

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State high court declines to hear Palmdale voting rights appeal

 The California Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to take up the city of Palmdale's appeals in a voting rights lawsuit it lost last year.

The high court's decision is the latest in a series of legal setbacks the city has faced since a Superior Court judge last year ruled Palmdale was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act and ordered it to hold a new election with council members chosen by geographic district.

The trial judge said the current city council, elected at large, could not hold office after July 9.

The city appealed parts of the ruling but the appellate court upheld the trial judge, prompting Palmdale officials to turn to the state's high court.

The city has continued to conduct business through its at-large council and attorneys for the plaintiffs are considering asking the trial court to hold the city in contempt. Nearly 200 city voters also have petitioned the governor to appoint a panel to oversee a new election.

During the trial, the plaintiffs successfully...

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Short on cash, Kashkari seeks student help on campaign ad

With a bag of Doritos in hand, Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate for governor, looks into a web video camera and makes what he calls a major announcement: The California college student who makes the best TV ad for his campaign will win a $25,000 scholarship.

“We need your creativity,” Kashkari says.

He also needs the cheap labor.

With just over six weeks until voters start casting ballots by mail, Kashkari has collected only about $800,000 for his longshot bid to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown in November's general election.

The Democratic incumbent has banked close to $23 million.

The scholarship competition, based on Frito Lay’s contest for the best amateur Doritos commercial to air during the Super Bowl, is Kashkari’s latest effort to make the most of his limited resources.

He has capitalized on the willingness of radio personalities to give him hours of free air time as a guest host. And he spent a week living as a homeless person on the streets of Fresno to highlight his stands on...

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