Senate passes bills on condoms, weapon IDs

Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO -- State senators on Thursday approved measures that would provide condoms to prison inmates, legalize the import of shoes made from kangaroo skin, require children to use car seats until they are 8 and require guns to stamp codes on ammunition.

The condom bill was vetoed by the governor last year. But supporters say they hope they have addressed the administration’s concerns and are hopeful of a different outcome this year.

On a day when the Senate acted on 100 bills, one of the most heated debates occurred over requiring semiautomatic pistols to be equipped with technology that stamps a traceable code on bullet casings when fired.


The bill’s author, Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), said the stamp would allow detectives to more easily develop leads when investigating shootings. About 45% of the 2,000 homicides in the state last year went unsolved, he said.

“This bill is about catching criminals and protecting public safety,” said Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), who carried it in the Senate for Feuer.

The bill goes back to the Assembly for approval of amendments before heading to the governor. It would not take effect until 2010.

The measure passed on a 21-17 vote, with strong opposition from Republican lawmakers including Sen. Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), who cited a UC Davis study that recommended more testing to prove the technology.

“I don’t think there is any proof that this microstamping will do anything for public safety,” Cogdill said.

There was also a largely partisan split over legislation by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda) that would require prison officials to allow nonprofit and public health agencies to distribute condoms and dental dams to prison inmates.

The bill was approved by a Senate vote of 21 to 18, with Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) arguing it is needed to address the heavy prevalence of HIV infections among prisoners.

“This is to help us fight this dreaded phenomenon,” Ridley-Thomas told his colleagues.

However, Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) said handing out condoms is sanctioning behavior prohibited in prison.

“It seems incredibly inconsistent for us to say that this behavior is not acceptable in prisons and then to provide devices to assist in that behavior,” Runner said in an interview, adding it will provide “tools for rape.”

Another bill that was hotly debated would legalize the import and sale of kangaroo-skin shoes and the hides used to make them.

The legislation, by Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), was sent to the governor Thursday on a 27-7 vote.

Sen. Jeff Denham (R-Salinas) said the bill would allow for lightweight but strong boots to be made for police officers and soldiers, thus reducing injuries.

“It will help in cutting down on workers’ comp bills for our police officers. It’s certainly a benefit and will save money for law enforcement,” he said.

Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) was not convinced it would protect endangered animals from mistreatment.

“This is a great bill for people who think the best use of kangaroos is to make them into soccer shoes,” Kuehl said.

The Senate voted to allow the South Coast Air Quality Management District to extend its chairman’s term. The bill would remove the term limits that otherwise would force Chairman William Burke from the post in January.

Other legislation senators OKd on Thursday included:

* A bill by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) that would allow anyone involved in a marriage or domestic partnership to change his or her surname. The bill was introduced after a man was hindered by government agencies to adopt his wife’s surname.

* A bill by Assemblyman Gene Mullin (D-San Mateo), which mandates that, starting June 30, 2008, children up to 8 years old must use child safety seats when riding in motor vehicles. The current law requires use up to 6 years of age.

In other action, the Legislature cleared the way for a San Bernardino County tribe to nearly triple its slot-machine inventory to 7,500 machines. Under the agreement, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians will give the state up to 25% of the revenue from the added machines.

The Legislature passed similar accords with four other San Diego and Riverside tribes in June. A hotel workers’ union and the owner of two horse racetracks are now funding an effort to repeal those four deals.

A spokesman for the referenda effort said Thursday that the coalition hadn’t seen the San Manuel compact and could not say whether it, too, would be targeted for repeal.

The compact, by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), passed the Assembly 68 to 2 and goes next to Schwarzenegger.


Times staff writer Nancy Vogel contributed to this report.