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California could soon end money bail, but some of the criminal justice groups who worked toward that goal aren’t celebrating.

A closely-watched bill to overhaul the state’s bail system advanced out of a key fiscal committee on Thursday with broad changes that would virtually eliminate the payment of money as a condition for release from jail.

That should have been a roaring victory for legislators and supporters who have long decried a system that they say unfairly punishes the poor. But the amendments also hand over more control to local courts and probation offices to decide who should remain incarcerated, a move former sponsors of the legislation contend could lead to indefinite detention.

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  • California Legislature
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance)
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A measure that would have required California hotels to provide employees who work alone in guest rooms with panic buttons in case of emergency was shelved in a state Senate fiscal committee Thursday.

The effort, Assembly Bill 1761 from Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), was aimed at protecting hotel workers from sexual harassment and assault. Opponents, including the California Chamber of Commerce and associations representing hoteliers, argued that the measure was unworkable and could require costly new equipment and administrative rules. 

“With the #MeToo movement making significant strides this year, the holding of this bill in committee is a clear setback for hotel housekeepers,” Muratsuchi said.

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AB 1335 would have required safety warnings on vending machines as well as beverage containers.
AB 1335 would have required safety warnings on vending machines as well as beverage containers. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A bill that would have required warnings on all sugar-sweetened beverages in California died in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

The bill, AB 1335 authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), would have required that every sugar-sweetened beverage sold in California in a sealed container be labeled with the words, “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.” Vending machines that offered those drinks would have been required to have warning labels as well.

Supporters, including the Service Employees International Union and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, argued that children who consume just one sugar-sweetened beverage each day have an increased chance of being overweight and having related health complications.

  • California Legislature
Virgil Grant arranges containers of various strains of medical marijuana in a display case at a dispensary he runs in Los Angeles.
Virgil Grant arranges containers of various strains of medical marijuana in a display case at a dispensary he runs in Los Angeles. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

State lawmakers on Thursday shelved a proposal to allow the state to license private banks to handle the billions of dollars expected to be generated by the state’s legal marijuana industry amid questions about the plan’s feasibility.

Voters approved Proposition 64 in 2016 to legalize growing, possessing and selling marijuana for recreational use, but newly licensed pot shops and farms say they cannot put their money in federally chartered banks because cannabis remains illegal under federal law.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) proposed that the state could license special privately financed banks that would issue checks to the businesses to pay rent and state and local taxes and fees, and to compensate vendors for goods and services provided to their businesses.

  • California Legislature
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

A measure that would have required large businesses to report to the state more data on how they pay their employees failed to advance past a key legislative committee on Thursday.

Under the bill, SB 1284 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), employers with 100 or more workers would have had to submit a report on how employees are compensated in each job category, broken down by race, ethnicity or sex.

The bill was backed by employment lawyers and women’s rights groups. Proponents said that such information would allow the state to “more efficiently identify patterns of wage disparities and allow for targeted enforcement of equal pay laws.”

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  • Governor's race
  • California Republicans
Gavin Newsom at a march in Los Angeles protesting immigrant family separations on June 30.
Gavin Newsom at a march in Los Angeles protesting immigrant family separations on June 30. (Emma McIntyre / Getty Images)

Gavin Newsom, the Democratic front-runner for governor, on Thursday criticized efforts to repeal California’s recently approved gas tax increase and defended the state’s controversial high-speed rail project, two of the most contentious issues the next governor will face.

Newsom called the Republican-crafted statewide ballot measure to repeal the gas tax, which will be on the November ballot, little more than a political ploy. He dismissed the GOP argument that government efficiencies could replace the $5.4 billion expected to be raised annually for much-needed road and bridge repairs and mass transit improvements.

“They are offering nothing but rhetoric to replace these dollars,” Newsom said. “The notion you’re going to somehow find these efficiencies is nonsense.”

  • California Legislature
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) is the author of a bill that would make it easier to prosecute police officers who kill civilians.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) is the author of a bill that would make it easier to prosecute police officers who kill civilians. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Major legislation that would make it easier to prosecute police officers who kill civilians is on hold, but its author said negotiations will continue before California lawmakers break for the year at the end of August.

The measure, Assembly Bill 931 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), has been the subject of intense debate by civil rights organizations who believe it’s necessary to hold officers accountable, and law enforcement groups who argue the effort is an existential threat.

State senators Thursday morning did not advance Weber’s bill, but instead voted to move it out of a fiscal committee, where it faced a deadline to pass by the end of the week. Now, lawmakers have more time to debate the issue, Weber said.

  • California Legislature
A California DMV office in South L.A.
A California DMV office in South L.A. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Long wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles were the subject of continued controversy Wednesday at a Capitol hearing and at a campaign event where Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox said the problem has been mishandled.

The Assembly Budget Committee voted 15 to 10 Wednesday on a budget bill that allows the DMV to pursue an additional $26 million to speed up the processing of licenses at field offices. But the agency must justify any request in writing and provide a monthly report on how money is being spent.

“It’s absolutely appropriate that we continue to follow up and understand how these resources are deployed so that these wait times, which are a statewide issue, can be addressed across the board,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the committee’s chairman.

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  • California in Congress
  • California Republicans
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) speaks to guests before his appearance in Sacramento on Aug. 15.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) speaks to guests before his appearance in Sacramento on Aug. 15. (John Myers/Los Angeles Times)

Almost two dozen protesters interrupted an otherwise low-key appearance by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in Sacramento on Wednesday, accusing the Bakersfield Republican of not doing enough to keep immigrant families from being separated.

“McCarthy, where’s your heart?” protesters chanted as they unfurled small banners that said “No justice, no peace” at the event sponsored by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

The demonstration was part of a series of protests and rallies held Wednesday that targeted the homes and district offices of California House Republicans for what immigrant rights organizers called their complicity in the Trump administration’s rigid immigration policies and separation of migrant families. The protesters briefly stopped the event before leaving the room. McCarthy sat quietly on stage during the interruption.

Former Assemblyman Matt Dababneh filed a defamation lawsuit Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court against a lobbyist who accused him of forcing her into a bathroom and masturbating in front of her. The suit comes nearly two months after a legislative investigator reported in a letter newly obtained by The Times that preliminary findings substantiated the woman's claim.