The state Assembly on Thursday approved legislation that would require banks and other institutions to recognize as legitimate the identification cards that consular offices issue to their citizens who may be living in this country illegally.
Approved by a margin of 50 to 13, the bill by Assemblyman Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) requires Senate approval. That appears likely because the upper house in the past has approved more far-reaching measures that would have authorized illegal immigrants to obtain California driver’s licenses.
Gov. Gray Davis has taken no position on the bill. Davis spokesman Russ Lopez said that among the issues to be considered is the ease with which such cards can be counterfeited.
The cards, generally issued by Mexico and Central and South American and Asian countries, include the person’s name, birthplace, date of birth, photograph, signature and U.S. address.
The person may or may not be living in this country. To obtain such a card, people must provide a birth certificate and a second piece of identification such as a passport.
In urging lawmakers to approve the measure, Nunez emphasized that the bill “doesn’t create any new entitlements.” Rather, AB 25 would allow people to open bank accounts. Law enforcement also would be required to recognize the cards as legal identification.
Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City), one of a handful of Republicans who voted for the bill, said such cards are “vital” for a variety of reasons, among them allowing police to identify illegal immigrants who are injured in car accidents.
In other legislative action Thursday:
* The Assembly approved legislation intended to limit oil spills from offshore wells. The measure -- opposed by the oil industry -- passed on a 41-26 vote, the minimum needed in the 80-seat Assembly.
AB 16, by Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), would require that petroleum be transported to shore by pipeline rather than barge. Only one firm -- Venoco Inc. -- still uses barges to transport oil to shore.
Though Jackson contended that the bill is “good for the environment, good for the coast,” oil industry lobbyists were making plans to take their arguments to the Senate, where they will try to kill the measure.
“This can only impede supply at a time when there is not sufficient pipeline capacity,” said Gene Erbin, a lobbyist for BP, the parent company of Arco.
* In the Senate, lawmakers approved and sent to the Assembly bills that would give employees new job protections if they become whistle-blowers, those who report corporate misconduct at the risk of being fired.
Approved on a 23-14 vote, SB 777 by Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) would apply to publicly traded and limited-liability companies, and would require that the attorney general establish a hotline so employees could report wrongdoing.
Davis vetoed similar legislation last year, contending that executives could have faced $100,000 fines even if they “did not actually commit the wrongful act themselves.” The new bill would soften the fines to a maximum $10,000 per violation.
* The Senate approved a measure to require that chain restaurants, including fast-food outlets, provide nutritional information to customers.
Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) contended that consumers often are not aware of how much fat they consume when they visit the drive-through window at a fast-food store or seat themselves for dinner at a steakhouse. The restaurant bill, SB 679, would not apply to mom-and-pop operations of fewer than 10 outlets.
* The Senate approved by 21 to 13 a measure, SB 131, to make first-time possession of marijuana an infraction. The bill does not affect more severe punishments for second- and third-time offenders.
In California, first-time possession of up to an ounce of marijuana typically is charged as an infraction, in which the citation is similar to a traffic ticket.
But offenders also can be charged with a misdemeanor. People facing misdemeanors can demand jury trials, which can cost thousands of dollars and strain local treasuries, noted Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford).
He is carrying the bill at the suggestion of Quentin Kopp, a retired senator who is now a Superior Court judge in San Mateo County.