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Civil engineer Praj White assesses a site in Humboldt County’s Eel River watershed that is home to a marijuana farm.
Civil engineer Praj White assesses a site in Humboldt County’s Eel River watershed that is home to a marijuana farm. (Humboldt County)

With counties facing large backlogs of applications for permits to grow marijuana, California lawmakers late Friday approved an urgency measure allowing the pot farmers to continue operating until their licenses are approved.

The bill sent to the governor would allow the state Department of Food and Agriculture to issue provisional licenses to businesses that have submitted an application for local approval.

“The growers have done what they were supposed to and this bill will ensure they can operate until the backlog is cleared,” Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said.

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(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

A proposal that passed the California Legislature on Friday would impose the nation’s strictest laws on animal testing for cosmetics.  

Senate Bill 1249 would make California the first state to outlaw the sale of cosmetics tested on animals. The ban applies to animal testing of a cosmetic or its ingredients conducted after 2019, but would allow exceptions to comply with Food and Drug Administration or foreign agency requirements.

In the final days of the session, legislators amended SB 1249 to narrow the ban’s scope, focusing on animal testing conducted by the cosmetic manufacturer or suppliers. The earlier version, which met significant opposition, applied even when the group conducting the animal testing was unrelated to the cosmetics company. That version would have prevented companies from using ingredients where animal tests were required for non-cosmetic reasons, including testing to ensure a chemical does not cause cancer.

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In this Aug. 10 photo, a helicopter drops water to protect a home from the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore.
In this Aug. 10 photo, a helicopter drops water to protect a home from the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore. (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

A new surcharge on landlines, cellphones and data plans meant to bolster 911 operations sputtered in the Legislature on Friday, even as lawmakers cited the need for an improved system in the wake of the state’s deadly wildfires.

“The current system is based on technology from the 1980s,” said state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), urging her colleagues to pass the bill. “Because of this outdated technology, the numbers of failures and response times continue to increase.”

The proposed charge would have been between $0.20 and $0.80 per month for each phone line. The bill would have also authorized a $0.75 monthly charge for prepaid mobile services.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A two-year battle to set middle and high school start times at 8:30 a.m. or later was finally put to bed in the Legislature when the measure squeaked through Friday night. 

Last year, Senate Bill 328 by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) failed to pass the Assembly by 15 votes. Since then, the bill was amended to exempt rural school districts in order to accommodate farming needs.

Lawmakers enthusiastically affirmed the research the bill was based on, which shows that early start times combined with teenagers’ natural sleep schedules lead to sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep, in turn, increases risks of poor grades, mental illness and car accidents. One study found moving start times from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. made students happier and more likely to show up for class.

  • California Legislature
Campers are having trouble getting reservations at state parks.
Campers are having trouble getting reservations at state parks. (Oscar Vasquez / California State Parks)

Californians hoping to reserve campsites at state parks may find them all booked up.

That’s because the electronic reservation system is being gamed by private operators who use computer software “bots” to snap up campsites for weeks in advance before selling them at a premium on the web.

On Friday, state lawmakers sent the governor a bill that bans using the state park service reservation system for profit without first getting approval from the Department of Parks and Recreation.

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Scott Slater, president and general counsel of Cadiz Inc. watches as water pours out into a spreading basin on April 18, 2012.
Scott Slater, president and general counsel of Cadiz Inc. watches as water pours out into a spreading basin on April 18, 2012. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A last-ditch effort to impose additional environmental review on a controversial groundwater pumping project in the Mojave Desert sputtered Friday night after a key state Senate committee held the bill over concerns about legislative process.

The measure, Senate Bill 120, would have given the state Lands Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife the authority to study the project by Cadiz Inc. to make sure the pumping would not harm surrounding lands.

A similar measure was shelved by the Senate last year. Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside) revived the proposal in recent days using a legislative maneuver called a gut-and-amend, or inserting a new policy into an existing, unrelated bill. 

  • California Legislature
Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles)
Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

State legislators approved a measure Friday that aims to help California taxpayers who face larger federal tax payments following the Trump administration’s recent overhaul.

The bill would allow taxpayers to claim a charitable deduction for state tax payments above the $10,000 limit set in the tax cuts passed by Congress last year. But the Internal Revenue Service announced last week that it believed such plans, which other states have passed, were tax dodges, and is working to pass a rule that would nullify them by the end of the year.

The author of the bill, state Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), said the passage of the measure was worth it for state taxpayers, even though it would lead to litigation between the state and federal government.

  • California Legislature
ICE agents detain a suspect inside Fresno County Superior Court in July.
ICE agents detain a suspect inside Fresno County Superior Court in July. (Pablo Lopez / Fresno Bee)

A proposal that would prohibit immigration arrests at state courthouses was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday, part of a broader move by Democrats to ensure public institutions remain “safe zones” for immigrants without legal status.

The approval comes as concerns continue to rise over the presence of federal immigration agents in courtrooms across the country. The latest such arrest to spark criticism took place this month in Sacramento.

“Civil arrests in our courthouses interrupt the administration of justice and hurt all those who use our courts — crime victims, survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence, and witnesses who are aiding law enforcement,” bill author Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said.

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(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The leader of the California Senate said Friday that she would delay a closely watched proposal to link oversight of the state’s vast electrical power grid to those in neighboring states.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) released a terse statement saying the bill would not be brought up for a vote before the Legislature’s final adjournment at midnight.

"We will continue this important discussion next year," Atkins said.

Rape kits from 2017.
Rape kits from 2017. (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

A bill sent to the governor on Friday would require the swift testing of all rape kits in California.

Under Senate Bill 1449 by state Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), law enforcement would have to send DNA evidence collected in every sexual assault case to a crime lab within 20 days. The lab would then need to process the evidence within four months, or send it to another lab within one month. 

California currently has thousands of untested rape kits. Officials sometimes skip testing when it would not help an investigation — when a victim drops charges or a suspect has already pleaded guilty, for example. But failing to test the kits could cause law enforcement to miss connections to previous crimes, supporters of the bill argue.

“All survivors deserve to have their rape kits tested promptly, which in turn can help ensure justice for survivors, identifying serial perpetrators and even exonerating the wrongfully convicted,” Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) said.