Foreign-speaking business patrons may get legal help

State lawmakers passed measures Thursday to protect foreign-speaking business patrons and make life tough for waterfowl that imperil airline travelers.

Worried that geese and jets don't mix, the Senate approved a bill that would give airports greater authority to avoid run-ins with game wardens if they need to kill birds that could interfere with jets.

Meanwhile, the Assembly approved a measure that would prohibit restaurants and other establishments from refusing to serve patrons because they're speaking a different language.

Although state law already provides a multitude of civil rights protections to business patrons, Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) said he believed the rules needed to be extended after a language issue arose with the Ladies Professional Golf Assn.

The LPGA, which has many foreign-born players and international sponsors, considered adopting a policy to suspend players who do not speak English, saying that they needed a full command of the language to deal with American media and sponsors of the U.S.-based tour.

Though the LPGA quickly dropped the idea after civil rights groups protested, Yee ran with the issue.

His bill, which passed on a 47-25 vote largely along party lines, must go to the Senate for approval of final amendments and then would go to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not indicated whether he will sign it.

Speaking a native language is protected in cases of employment and housing under existing California law, but that protection does not cover consumer issues.

In a news release, Yee heralded his bill as a landmark, saying no one should be discriminated against "simply for speaking their language."

The Assembly also approved a measure by Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena) that would extend honorary degrees to the more than 2,500 Japanese American students who had their college educations interrupted during the World War II internment. During that time, about 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated in camps around the western United States.

The Senate has moved to reduce the chances of bird-jet collisions months after a US Airways jetliner ditched in New York's Hudson River after striking some Canada geese.

Sen. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) introduced the measure after learning that state wildlife officials had threatened to cite California airport operators for shooting birds near flight paths.

Cox said the bill, approved 38 to 0, would give airports "the tools to do their job without interference from the state Department of Fish and Game." Schwarzenegger has taken no public position on the bill.

The Senate also passed a measure that details how car rental companies could pass to customers the cost of a recent increase in the state's vehicle license fee.

Existing law requires the fee to be included in the rental rate, but the bill sent to the governor's desk would allow the fee to be itemized and charged separately.


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