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Adam Foss of Prosecutor Impact speaks as family members of those sentenced under the felony murder rule hold images of loved ones.
Adam Foss of Prosecutor Impact speaks as family members of those sentenced under the felony murder rule hold images of loved ones. (Mini Racker / Los Angeles Times)

Activists gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday to demand that lawmakers change California’s felony murder law, which allows defendants to be convicted of first-degree murder if a victim dies during the commission of a felony, even if the defendant was an accomplice or did not intend to kill.

A measure being considered by lawmakers, Senate Bill 1437, would change who could be sentenced for felony murder and give inmates imprisoned under the rule a chance at re-sentencing. 

Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), the author of the bill, criticized California’s felony murder rule as irrational.

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  • State government
(Los Angeles Times)

California elections officials gave final approval Tuesday to a new system for counting ballots in Los Angeles County, one that uses open source software developed by local officials and design experts.

The certification of the new tally system for the county paves the way for other improvements, including redesigned absentee ballot packets, in the Nov. 6 election. It is the first election system of its kind, using publicly available source code that has been certified for use in California.

"With security on the minds of elections officials and the public, open-source technology has the potential to further modernize election administration, security, and transparency," Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a written statement.

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Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) and his wife, Margaret, were indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges they used $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use and filed false campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission to mask their actions.

  • California Legislature
Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), left, and Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) celebrate after the bail overhaul was approved by the Assembly.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), left, and Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) celebrate after the bail overhaul was approved by the Assembly. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California lawmakers on Tuesday passed a landmark bill that would overhaul the state’s cash-bail system, replacing it with one that grants judges greater power to decide who should remain incarcerated ahead of trial.

The proposal moved out of the chamber with a 26-12 vote and now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown, who last year pledged to work with lawmakers and the state’s top Supreme Court justice to pass the legislation.

A landmark bill to end money bail in California passed out of the state Assembly on Monday, clearing a major legislative hurdle despite mounting opposition to last-minute changes that gave judges greater power to decide who should remain incarcerated ahead of trial.

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State Sen. Joel Anderson is facing a legislative investigation after a female lobbyist accused him of threatening to “bitch slap” her and harassing her at a Capitol-area bar last week, sources say.

  • Congressional races
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

President Trump threw his weight behind another California candidate in the closely watched midterms, giving his nod on Twitter to the GOP state tax board chair, Diane Harkey. 

It’s another sign that Republicans are concerned about holding on to the House seat being vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who announced he would retire after winning re-election by the slimmest margin in the country two years ago.

It’s a risky move, considering Trump lost by seven points to Hillary Clinton there in 2016, and that Trump’s approval ratings continue to be underwater in Orange and San Diego counties, where the 49th Congressional District is located. 

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  • California Legislature
High surf pounding the Wedge in Newport Beach on July 11, 2017.
High surf pounding the Wedge in Newport Beach on July 11, 2017. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

Let it be known that on Aug. 20, 2018, surfing became California’s official state sport.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday that enshrines surfing in the state’s code. The bill notes that surfing quickly became a California icon after being imported from Hawaii. Malibu, Trestles, Mavericks, Rincon, Steamer Lane and Huntington are California’s world-famous surf breaks. The Surfers’ Hall of Fame is in Huntington Beach. And the neoprene wetsuit, surfers’ unofficial uniform, was invented in the Bay Area.

“Nothing represents the California Dream better than surfing,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), who authored the bill and has been a surfer since high school. “I’m stoked that we’re celebrating an iconic sport.”

Colorful straws sit on a counter at an L.A. restaurant.
Colorful straws sit on a counter at an L.A. restaurant. (Los Angeles Times)

The California Senate on Monday approved legislation barring dine-in restaurants from offering plastic straws to customers unless they are requested.

The measure, which goes back to the Assembly for concurrence in amendments, was introduced to address the environmental problems caused by plastic ending up in oceans and rivers.

Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) said plastic contamination is showing up in 25% of the fish sold in California.