California lawmakers Friday passed a bill to get police officers who check on troubled individuals to find out whether they own guns, a response to the rampage near UC Santa Barbara last spring that left seven people dead and 13 wounded.
Police conducted a welfare check on the gunman, Elliot Rodger, 22, a month before the shooting at the request of his mother. The officers did not check Rodger's apartment for firearms and were unaware that he had three handguns.
"If we have this tool in the toolbox, perhaps we can help prevent such an incident in the future," said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), author of the measure, which is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto.
Sen. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale), a former LAPD officer, said welfare checks are difficult for police because officers usually don't have much information on the individuals they are contacting.
"Any more information or any tangible thing we can take on those calls is very helpful," Knight told his colleagues, speaking in support of the bill, SB 505. "This is going to help keep police officers safe and make welfare checks safer for everybody."
The Legislature's efforts to cull hundreds of pending bills before the Aug. 31 end of the session were sidetracked early Friday with reports that one of their own was locked up in a Sacramento County jail cell.
Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence early Friday. He was taken into custody after California Highway Patrol officers spotted him driving the wrong way on a one-way street near the state Capitol, CHP Officer Julie Powell said. Hueso was driving a state vehicle.
The lawmaker had attended a reception hosted by the California Latino Legislative Caucus on Thursday evening, and that night a fellow legislator posted a photograph on Twitter showing Hueso with other senators at the Capitol, his shirt untucked and a drink in his hand.
Hueso, after being released on bail, issued an apology for his behavior:
"I am truly and profoundly sorry for the unacceptably poor personal judgment which I demonstrated last night," Hueso said in a statement. "As someone who cares deeply about the public safety, I sincerely apologize to my family, my constituents and my colleagues in the Senate for breaching the trust they've all placed in me."
Hueso's absence from the Senate on Friday could have affected the fate of one bill. Legislation pushed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that would have given it some say in appointments to the Los Angeles Employee Relations Board failed after it fell one vote short of approval.
In other action Friday, state lawmakers sent the governor an anti-corruption bill in response to a bribery scandal in San Bernardino County stemming from a Rancho Cucamonga land deal.
The bill would prohibit an individual from aiding or abetting bribery of a public officer or person and would expand penalties for such offenses.
"This bill addresses a gap in the law that up to this point has allowed for immunity of those who assist in the coordination of bribes and other illegal acts of public corruption," said Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona), author of SB 952.
Lawmakers also approved legislation requiring greater oversight for major transportation projects, a response to significant construction problems and flaws with the Oakland Bay Bridge project. The measure, SB 969, is by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord).
On Friday, Brown 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 will help young nonviolent offenders get their lives back on track so they can become productive members of society, according to the bill's author, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).
"We know that young people who have been in trouble, if given the chance, can turn their lives around before it's too late," Leno said.
The measure, SB 1038, provides for the automatic sealing of juvenile records in cases in which youths successfully complete all court-imposed sanctions. Existing law allows for the records to be sealed, but requires the offender to petition the court. Many never file a petition, Leno said.
Jackson authored the sports-related measure, SB 1349, so that students and their parents can see how many boys and girls are participating in school sports and judge whether there is gender equity in the programs.
The measure requires all public elementary and secondary schools that offer competitive sports to report on their website the number of boys and girls who play sports. That will help determine if schools are complying with Title IX, which mandates equity in school sports teams.
"In the 40 years since Title IX became law, girls' sports opportunities have grown exponentially," Jackson said. "Yet, we know that girls still have far fewer opportunities to play sports than boys."