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Minimum wage hike and immigrant work permits among 100 bills shelved in Sacramento

Minimum wage hike and immigrant work permits among 100 bills shelved in Sacramento
Sen. Mark Leno at the Capitol in Sacramento. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

State lawmakers on Thursday shelved some 100 bills for the year, including proposals that would have raised the minimum wage, banned oil drilling off the coast and provided work permits to agricultural workers who are in the country illegally.

With this year's legislative session ending in two weeks, the scuttling of bills came on a deadline for the Senate and Assembly finance committees to approve bills that add to state costs but still have merit.

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Bills held in suspense for the year included one by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would increase the minimum wage — first to $11 per hour next year and then $13 an hour in 2017.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee, said raising the minimum wage will remain on the agenda next year, vowing his panel will work with legislative leaders and analysts to explore other options to boost the hourly wage, including possible increases by region, instead of statewide.

"Raising the minimum wage is a crucial next step for California to lift working families out of poverty, and we look forward to working with our legislative colleagues and the Governor to make that happen," Gomez said in a statement.

Leno criticized the delay. "Any further study or delay of such an increase undermines working Californians who deserve to be paid a living wage," he said.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law two years ago to boost the minimum wage to $10 an hour starting next January. The current wage is $9 per hour.

Since that law took effect, cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco have acted to raise their own minimum wages.

Also shelved was a measure by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) that would have allowed agricultural workers who are in the country illegally to get special state permits to stay and work in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown's Department of Finance had previously issued a proposition paper against the measure, citing its potential for substantial future costs.

The agency had anticipated around $15 million a year to maintain a database of permit holders and $88 million to process 1.8 million new fingerprints.

"I am deeply disappointed that thousands of undocumented farmworkers throughout the state will continue to live in limbo and fear, despite their significant contributions to California and its economy," Alejo said in a statement, singling out fellow Democrats for criticism for not approving the bill.

Environmentalists were disappointed that lawmakers put a hold on a bill by state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-San Rafael) that would ban new oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara.

"The fact that just months after the worst oil spill in California in two decades, a common-sense bill to prohibit risky offshore oil drilling can't even make it to the Assembly floor, is a sad testament to the influence of the oil industry in our state," said Jena Price, legislative affairs manager for the California League of Conservation Voters.

The Senate panel also shelved a proposal that would have provided whistle-blower protection to legislative staff and root out corruption.

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Assemblywoman Melissa A. Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) introduced the measure after the federal indictments of former Sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee on corruption charges, and the conviction of former Sen. Rod Wright for lying about living in his district.

"A year after three senators were arrested for corruption-related charges, it is shocking that my Democratic colleagues in the state Senate would kill a straightforward bill aimed at curtailing corruption," Melendez said.

Staff writer Kurt Chirbas contributed to this story

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