This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:
- A legislative analysis released on Monday puts the total cost of a single-payer healthcare system in California would be $400 billon a year.
- Democrats say they want to know why the microphone of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) was cut off during her speech to the African American caucus on Saturday.
- Kimberly Ellis, who lost her bid to lead the California Democratic Party by a razor-thin margin, called on Sunday for an audit of the vote.
The state Senate on Monday approved a bill that would repeal three-year mandatory sentence enhancements for some prior drug convictions, part of a reform package that lawmakers say would protect juveniles and create parity in the justice system.
Senate Bill 180, co-authored by Sens. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), narrowly moved out of the Senate on a 22-13 vote. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
Another bill in the package, Senate Bill 439, passed on a 23-13 vote and would prohibit authorities from incarcerating children 11 and younger.
On the Senate floor, Republican lawmakers urged their Democratic colleagues not to water down state sentencing laws, pointing to the deadly attack on Whittier police officers allegedly carried out by a paroled gang member.
But supporters of the legislation called it a modest reversal of harmful policy under the so-called war on drugs, which they said disproportionately targeted minorities and did not stop the flow of narcotics. And they cited concerns over the direction on drug crimes taken by U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who last week told federal prosecutors to pursue "the most serious, readily provable offense" in drug cases.
Under current state law in California, a person convicted for sale or possession for sale of a small amount of drugs can face a sentence of three to five years incarceration, plus an additional three years in jail for each prior conviction for similar drug offenses.
Mitchell said research showed long prison sentences because of such mandatory enhancements tear apart families and do not stop offenders from breaking the law.
“Enhancements came around at a time when we didn’t have the research to show that they aren’t effective, and [they] were based on fear,” she told lawmakers. “When you know better, you’re supposed to do better.”