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California Senate acts to ban use of plastic microbeads by 2020

California Senate acts to ban use of plastic microbeads by 2020
Using a fine mesh net, environmental activist and scientist Marcus Eriksen collects dozens of plastic microbeads at the confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco on Jan. 24, 2014. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

A day after the Senate failed to muster the votes needed, lawmakers on Friday approved an amended bill that would prohibit the sale of personal-care products that contain plastic microbeads, starting in 2020.

Lawmakers also gave final legislative approval to bills aimed at improving election turnouts and regulating unmanned aerial drones.

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Sen. Ben Hueso (D-Logan Heights) said microbeads are a "significant source of pollution in our water bodies, including the Los Angeles River and San Francisco Bay."

The measure was changed to exempt natural exfoliates and eliminate a requirement to have the state Department of Toxic Substances Control to review alternative plastic microbeads.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) had opposed the bill Thursday but said the new bill allows room and time for the industry to come up with alternatives.

"Can we come up with a new technology that biodegrades quicker," and is less harmful to wildlife, Hertzberg asked before voting for AB 888 by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica).

Republicans including Sen. Joel Anderson of San Diego opposed the bill, saying it would hurt an industry that is innovating.

"This is a heavy-handed bill that will deny solutions from the marketplace," Anderson told his colleagues.

The Senate also took action Friday to address the dismal turnout in last year's election, sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would allow counties to set up satellite offices where people can conditionally register to vote and provisionally cast ballots for 14 days before an election, including election day.

The bill by Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Santa Monica) was supported by Secretary of State Alex Padilla. SB 439 was opposed by most Republicans, but passed on a vote of 26-13.

"The passage of this measure represents a major step forward in the effort to encourage voter turnout in California," Allen said. "By making it possible for satellite election offices to be open prior to election day, far more voters will be able to take advantage of this convenience."

The Senate also sent the governor two bills by Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) that would outlaw the flying of unmanned aerial drones over prisons, jails and schools in California.

"Banning drones over correctional facilities ensures these devices cannot be used to drop contraband inside the facilities," Gaines told his colleagues.

SB 271 bans drones over schools, and SB 170 prohibits them over prisons and jails.

Meanwhile, Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) decided Friday to postpone a vote until next year on her bill that would have repealed a rule that families receiving welfare do not receive any additional money if they have a child after joining the rolls.

The decision came after state analysts estimated increased CalWORKs grant costs of up to $220 million annually if the rule is changed.

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"There is no realistic prospect of the governor signing it," said Charles Stewart, a spokesman for Mitchell.

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