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A firefighter works to prevent flames from crossing Highway 29, north of Calistoga, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017.
A firefighter works to prevent flames from crossing Highway 29, north of Calistoga, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

A bipartisan group of California lawmakers proposed on Tuesday to spend $1 billion to clear fire-prone trees and brush from across the state over the next five years while providing new relief for utility companies that have said wildfire costs could lead them to bankruptcy.

But critics maintained provisions in the bill offer little protection to utility customers from footing the bill, even when the companies are found at fault for some amount of a fire’s origins.

“Make no mistake about it, it's not perfect,” said state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), a co-chair of the committee. “Little that we do here ever is.”

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  • California Legislature
Nikolas Cruz, accused of a mass shooting at a Florida high school, appears with his attorney in court in February.
Nikolas Cruz, accused of a mass shooting at a Florida high school, appears with his attorney in court in February. (Susan Stocker / Sun-Sentinel)

In response to a mass shooting six months ago at a Florida high school, California lawmakers on Tuesday sent the governor a bill that would allow teachers, employers and co-workers to ask judges to remove guns from people they see as a danger to the public.

The state Senate voted to expand the state’s gun-violence restraining order law, which currently allows family members and law enforcement to petition the court to temporarily remove guns from persons seen as a threat to the public.

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said he introduced the bill in response to the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in which a 19-year-old former student allegedly killed 17 people.

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California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a landmark bill to overhaul the state’s money-bail system, replacing it with one that grants judges greater power to decide who should remain incarcerated ahead of trial.

The two-year effort fulfills a pledge made by Brown last year when he stalled negotiations over the ambitious legislation, saying he would continue to work with lawmakers and the state’s top Supreme Court justice on the right approach to change the system. The new law puts California at the forefront of a national push to stop courts from imposing a heavy financial burden on defendants before they have faced a jury.

“Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” he said in a statement. 

  • California Legislature
A landscape is charred by a wildfire outside Redding in late July.
A landscape is charred by a wildfire outside Redding in late July. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

California lawmakers crafting state wildfire prevention policy clashed late Monday night over key details in a lengthy proposal, deep disagreements that threaten to stymie action in the Legislature for 2018.

Much of the discussion during the joint conference committee hearing focused on what has consistently been the sticking point for both lawmakers and stakeholders: how much to ease the financial impact to the state’s electric utilities for fires involving their equipment. Some continued to suggest that investor-owned utility companies could be at risk of bankruptcy if no action is taken.

“The conversation up here has to be focused on making sure that event doesn’t happen,” said state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), a co-chairman of the committee.

Gov. Jerry Brown.
Gov. Jerry Brown. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday vetoed a bill that would have prevented politicians from paying family members an amount greater than fair-market value for goods and services.

The bill by Assemblyman Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga) sought to ban politicians from making excessive payments to parents, children and siblings working on their campaigns.

"This proposed new authority for the Fair Political Practices Commission concerns me," Brown wrote in his veto message.

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  • California Legislature
  • California Democrats
The state Capitol saw the demise Monday of a bill that would have allowed legislative leaders to accept bigger campaign checks.
The state Capitol saw the demise Monday of a bill that would have allowed legislative leaders to accept bigger campaign checks. (Rich Pedroncelli)

A controversial proposal to allow state legislative leaders to accept bigger campaign checks for their favored candidates was sidelined by lawmakers for the year on Monday after it failed to garner sufficient support in the state Senate.

The measure by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) would have allowed Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate and Assembly to form caucus committees to accept campaign contributions of up to $36,000 from individual sources for state races.

Legislators are now limited to accepting contributions of no more than $4,400 from each source. Mullin’s bill would have also required monthly disclosure of campaign contributions.

Used needles are collected and exchanged for clean ones by the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center in San Francisco.
Used needles are collected and exchanged for clean ones by the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center in San Francisco. (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times)

San Francisco would be able to establish hygienic sites for people to use injectable drugs while supervised by healthcare workers under a bill approved Monday by the Legislature.

The measure, Assembly Bill 186 by Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would let San Francisco pilot a “safe injection site” program, which would include access to sterilized needles and referrals to drug treatment programs.

Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) said San Francisco Mayor London Breed has offered to make the city a “guinea pig” for the program. 

  • California Legislature
Californians wanting to carry concealed weapons such as these Glock handguns would face new requirements under legislation.
Californians wanting to carry concealed weapons such as these Glock handguns would face new requirements under legislation. (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

California lawmakers on Monday approved a trio of bills that would reduce the number of people with access to firearms, including lifetime bans on owning guns for people convicted of domestic violence and individuals placed on involuntary psychiatric holds twice in a year by the courts.

The three bills now head to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration.

Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) proposed a lifetime gun ban on those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, which extends the current 10-year prohibition in state law.

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  • California Legislature
Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) at a news conference in February.
Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) at a news conference in February. (Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

California lawmakers on Monday made another attempt to blunt Trump administration policies by passing a bill aimed at combating housing segregation.

Assembly Bill 686 by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) would put into state law Obama-era rules requiring local governments to advance policies to desegregate housing in their communities. This month, Ben Carson, Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, announced he was moving forward with plans to roll back rules requiring cities and counties to flight patterns of housing segregation.

“We wanted to make sure that fair housing still exists in California even though it’s been threatened by the Trump administration and Congress,” Santiago said.

When federal regulators voted late last year to roll back net neutrality protections, state Democratic leaders pledged to wage a fight with the Trump administration to preserve fair and open access to the internet in California.